Then I Was Guided
Then I Was Guided
Muhammad Al-Tijani Al-Samawi
My book is a modest piece of work. It is a story of a journey ... a story of a new discovery, not a technical or natural discovery, but one in the field of religious and philosophical schools. Since any discovery is based primarily on a healthy mind and clear comprehension, which distinguishes human beings from all other creatures, I would like to dedicate this book to every healthy mind.
A mind which puts truth to the test and knows it from the wreck of wrong. A mind which weighs all that has been said in the scale of justice, and always comes out in favor of reason. A mind which compares words and sayings, and has the ability to distinguish between the logical and the not so logical, and between the strong and the feeble. Allah, the Most High, said, Those who listen to the saying and follow the best of it, those are guided by and they are the mindful. To all of those I dedicate this book, hoping that Allah, Praise be to Him the Most High, opens our minds before our eyes, to guide us, to enlighten our hearts, to show us clearly the right way so we follow it, and to show us clearly the wrong way so we avoid it, and accepts us with His good servants, for He listens and He answers.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Universe. He created man from clay and shaped him in the best possible way. He favoured him above all other creatures and made His closest angels prostrate themselves before him. He graced him with the mind that changed his doubt to an absolute belief. He gave him two eyes, one tongue, two lips and showed him the two ways. He sent him messengers giving him the good news, warning him, and alerting him, and preventing him from going astray with the cursed devil. He told him not to worship the Devil, for the Devil is his enemy, and to worship Allah alone and follow His right path, with understanding and a convincing belief, and not to imitate the belief of his forefathers and friends and relatives who followed those before them without any clear reasoning. Who could say better things than he who called for Allah and did good deeds and said that he was one of the Muslims, may the Lord's blessings, peace and greetings be upon the Messenger who brought mercy unto the people ... supporter of all the Oppressed and the weak ... saviour of all mankind from the darkness of ignorance ... he who will guide them to the enlightened path of the faithful and the good.
Our master Muhammad ibn Abdulla ... prophet of the Muslims and chief of the singularly radiant. May these blessings and greetings be upon his good and purified posterity whom Allah has chosen from among all the truthful. He stated in the Quran that we are compelled to love them, after he had purified them and made them infallible. He promised that anybody who goes on board their ship will be saved, and anybody who does not do so will perish. May these blessings and greetings be upon his honourable companions who supported him, honoured him and sacrificed themselves for him and for the victory of Islam. They knew the truth, so they pledged allegiance to him with conviction and stayed on the right path without changing it and were thankful. May Allah reward them for their services to Islam and the Muslims. May these blessings and greetings be upon their followers and upon those who kept on their path and were guided by their light ... to the day of Judgement.
Please Lord accept my request for You are the All hearing and the Most Knowledgeable. Please my Lord open my heart for You are the One who guides us to the absolute truth. Please my Lord help me to express myself, for you grant wisdom to any one You wish from amongst Your faithful worshippers. Please my Lord grant me more knowledge and join me with righteous people.
I still remember how my father took me for the first time to the local mosque where al-Tarawih prayers were performed during the month of Ramadan. I was then ten years old. He introduced me to the men who could not hide their astonishment. I knew previously that the tutor had arranged for me to perform al-Ishfa 1 prayers for two or three nights. It was customary for me to pray behind the man with some local children, and wait for the Imam to arrive at the second part of the Qur'an, i.e. surat Meriam. My father made sure that we learnt the Qur'an at the Qur'anic school as well as at home through private lessons given to us by a blind man, who was related to us and who could recite the Qur'an by heart. Due to the fact that I learnt to recite the Qur'an at an early age, the tutor tried to show his good influence on me by teaching me the kneeling points in the recital. He tested me repeatedly to make sure that I had understood his instructions.
After I passed the test and finished performing the prayers and the recital, as well as I was expected to do, all the men came and congratulated me and my father, and thanked my tutor for his good efforts and blessings, and thanked Allah for Islam. The memories of the days that followed are still with me today ... I acquired so much admiration and my reputation went beyond our alley to the whole town. Those nights of Ramadan have left their religious marks on me to this day, and every time I go through an episode of confusion, I feel that there is a strange power which pulls me and puts me back on the path. Every time I felt the weakness of the soul and the meaningless of life, these memories come to me to elevate me to a spiritual level and light in my conscience the flame of belief so that I can carry the responsibility. The responsibility which was given to me by my father, or more appropriately by my tutor, to lead the group in prayers at an early age made me feel as if I was not doing enough, or at least not up to the standard which was expected from me.
Therefore I spent my childhood and my adolescence in relative rectitude, but not without some innocent playing and an eagerness to know and to imitate. Throughout that period I was surrounded by the divine care which made me distinguishable amongst my brothers for my calmness and composure and for being on the right path and away from all immoral acts. I should not forget to mention that my mother - may Allah bless her soul - had a big influence on me. She opened my eyes as she taught me the short chapters (surahs) of the holy Qur'an, the prayers and the rules of ritual purity. She took special care of me because I was her first son, and perhaps she found pleasure in educating me, as she was sharing the household with my father's first wife and her sons. The name Tijani, which was given to me by my mother, has a special meaning in the al-Samawi family which had adopted the Tijani sufi tariqa (order) ever since it was visited by a son of Shaykh Sidi Ahmed al-Tijani who came from Algeria. Many people of Gafsa - my family's home town - adopted the Tijani sufi order, especially the wealthy and educated families who helped to spread the order.
Because of my name, I became quite popular in the Samawi House and outside it, especially with those who were connected with the Tijani order. Therefore, many of the elders who were present at the above mentioned night during Ramadan came to congratulate my father and then kissed my head and hand and said, "These are the blessings of our master Shaykh Ahmad al-Tijani." It is worth noting that the Tijani sufi order is widely spread in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Lybia, Sudan and Egypt, and those who believe in it are, somehow, fanatical about it. They do not visit the graves of other sages because, according to their belief, they acquired their knowledge from each other, whereas Shaykh Ahmed al-Tijani acquired his knowledge from the Messenger of Allah Muhammad (s.a.w.) directly, despite the fact that he came thirteen centuries after the Prophet (s.a.w.).
It has been said that Shaykh Ahmed al-Tijani used to communicate with the great Prophet (s.a.w.) by talking to him while he was awake and not in his sleep. Also it is believed that the complete prayers which were devised by the Shaykh are better than finishing the Holy Qur'an forty times.
In order to be brief I shall stop talking about the Tijani sufi tariqa at this stage of the book, and if God wills it, I will refer to it elsewhere. Thus I grew up with this belief, like any other youth in our town. We were all - praise be to Allah - Sunni Muslims following the teaching of Imam Malik ibn Anas, Imam of Dar al-Hijra. However, we, in North Africa, are divided in our Sufi orders. For example in Gasfa alone there are al- Tijaniyya, al-Qadiriyya, al-Rahmaniyya, al-Salamiyya and al-Isawiyya. For each of the above orders, there are followers and supporters who could recite the order, poems and Dhikrs (invocation of God) in all special ceremonies such as weddings, circumcisions and vows. Apart from some negative aspects, these Sufi Tariqas played an important role in preserving the religious rites and in maintaining the respect for the sages.
I was eighteen years of age when the Tunisian national society of Scouts agreed to send me as one of six Tunisian representatives to the first conference for Islamic and Arab scouts which took place in Mecca. I was the youngest member of the mission, and certainly the least educated, for there were with me two headmasters, a teacher from the capital, a journalist and a fifth whose job I did not know, although I later realized that he was a relative of the then minister for education. The journey was rather indirect, our first stop was Athens where we stayed for two days, next was Amman, the capital of Jordan, in which we spent four days, and then we arrived in Saudi Arabia and participated in the conference and performed the rites of pilgrimage and Umra.
I cannot describe my feelings when I entered the House of Allah for the first time... my heart was beating so fast. I felt as if it was coming gut of my chest to see this ancient House for itself, and the tears kept coming out of my eyes endlessly. I imagined the angels carried me over the pilgrims and up to the roof of the Holy Kaba and answered the call of Allah from there: "Allah ... here I am, your servant came to you to be at your service ... Labbayka Allahumma Labbayk. " Listening to other pilgrims, I gathered that most of them had waited for a long time and saved up throughout their lives to come to Mecca. In my case, the journey was sudden and I was not prepared for it. I remember may father bidding me a tearful farewell, when he saw the aeroplane ticket and knew for certain that I was going to perform the Pilgrimage, saying, "Congratulations, my son, Allah has willed that you should perform the Pilgrimage before me at this age, for you are the son of Sidi Ahmed al-Tijani ... pray for me at Allah's House to forgive me and grant me the pilgrimage to His House...". I felt that Allah Himself called me and cared for me and brought me to the place where everybody longs to visit, although some cannot make it.
I appreciated this opportunity, therefore I threw myself into my prayers and tawaf (circling around the Kaba) ... even when the drinking from the water of Zamzam and going up the mountains where people competed to get to Hara cave in al-Nur mountain. I was only beaten by a young Sudanese pilgrim ... so I was "second of two". When I got there, I rolled myself on the floor as if I was rolling on the Great Prophet's lap and smelled his breathing... what great memories... they left such a deep impression on me that I will never forget.
Allah has cared for me in many ways, for I was liked by everybody I met in the conference, and many asked for my address in order to write to me in the future. As for my Tunisian companions, they looked down on me from the first meeting we had at the Tunisian Capital when we were preparing for the journey. I sensed their feeling, but I was patient, for I knew that the people of the North look down on the people from the South and consider them backward Soon enough their views started to change. Throughout the journey and during the conference and the pilgrimage I proved myself to be worthy of their respect due to my knowledge of poetry and my winning of many prizes. I went back to my country with mare than twenty addresses from different nationalities.
We stayed twenty five days in Saudi Arabia, during which we met many learned Muslim scholars (Ulama) and listened to their lectures. I was influenced by some of the beliefs of the Wahahi sect and wished that all Muslims followed them. Indeed, I thought that they were chosen by Allah among all His worshippers to guard His House, for they were the purest and most knowledgeable people on earth, and Allah had given them oil so that they could serve and could care for the pilgrims, guests of the Merciful.
When I came back from the pilgrimage to my country I wore the Saudi national dress and was surprised by the reception that my father had prepared. Many people gathered at the station, led by Shaykhs of the Isawiyya, Tijaniyya and the Qadiriyya Sufi order, complete with ceremonial drums.
They took me through the streets of our town chanting and cheering, and every time we passed a mosque I was stopped for a short time whilst people, especially the old folk, came to congratulate me with tears in their eyes longing to see the House of Allah and to visit the Prophet's grave. People looked at me as if they have not seen a young pilgrim (Haj) of my age in Gafsa before.
I lived the happiest days of my life during that period, and many people, including the notables of the town came to visit and to congratulate me, and often asked me to read al- Fatihah (the Opening Sura of the Qur'an) with the prayers in the presence of my father, from whom I was embarrased although he kept encouraging me. Every time a group of visitors left the house, my mother came to the sitting area to burn incense and read some amulets in order to rid me of bad spells.
My father kept the celebration going for three nights in the centre of the Tijani Sufi order, each night he slaughtered a sheep for a banquet. People asked me all sorts of questions, and my answers were mainly to praise the Saudis for their efforts to support and spread Islam.
Soon people started calling me Haj (Pilgrim), and whenever somebody shouted Haj, it only meant me. Gradually I became known amongst the various religious groups especially the Muslim Brotherhood, and I went around the mosques lecturing on religious issues, telling people not to kiss the graves or touch the woods for blessing because these are signs of Polytheism. My activities started to increase and I was giving religious lessons on Fridays before the Imam's speech. I moved from Abi Yakub mosque to the Great Mosque because the Friday prayers were held in different times in those mosques; at midday in the former and during the afternoon in the latter. On Sundays, my lessons were mostly attended by my students at the secondary school where I taught Technology. They liked me and appreciated my efforts because I gave them a lot of my time trying to help them in removing the clouds from their minds due to the teachings of the atheist and communist teachers of Philosophy ... and there were plenty of them! My students used to wait with eagerness for these religious circles and some of them came to my house for I bought a number of Islamic books and read them thoroughly to bring myself up the standard of the questions I used to be asked. During the year in which I did the pilgrimage to Mecca, I completed the other half of my religious duties by getting married. It was the wish of my mother to see me married before she passed away, for she had seen the weddings of all my half-brothers ... and Allah gave her what she swished and I got married to a young lady that I had never met before. My mother died after having been present at the birth of my first and second child, and she was preceded by my father who had died two years before her. Prior to his death he did the pilgrimage to Mecca, and two years later before his death, he turned to Allah in repentance.
The Lybian revolution succeeded during the period when the Arabs and the Muslims were feeling their humiliating defeat at the hands of the Israelis, and we saw that young revolutionary leader speaking on behalf of Islam and praying among his people calling for the liberation of al-Ouds
I became attracted to his ideas, as did many young Muslims and Arabs, and as a result we organized an educational visit to Lybia by a group consisting of forty men for the Education Department. We visited the country at the beginning of the revolution. and when we came hack home we were very optimistic and hopeful for a better future far Muslims and Arabs in the whole world.
During the previous years I had corresponded with some friends, and my friendship with a few of them became very close, so that they even asked me to visit them. Thus, I made all the preparation for a journey during the summer vacation which lasted three months. I planned to go to Libya and Egypt by road and from there across the sea to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and then to Saudi Arabia. I meant to do Umra there and to renew my commitment to the Wahabiyya in whose fervour I campaigned amongst the students and in the mosques which were frequented by the Muslim Brotherhood.
My reputation passed from my hometown to other neighbouring towns through visitors who might attend the Friday prayer and listen to the lessons then go back to their communities. My reputation reached Shaykh Ismail al Hadifi, leader of the Sufi order in Tuzer, capital of al-Jarid and the birthplace of the famous poet Abu al-Qasim al-Shabbi. This Shaykh has many followers in Tunisia and abroad, especially among the working classes in France and Germany.
I received an invitation from him through his agents in Gafsa who wrote me a long letter thanking me fur my services to Islam and the Muslims. In the letter they claimed that the things I was doing would not bring me nearer to Allah because I had no learned Shaykh: He who has no Shaykh. his Shaykh will be a devil", and You need a Shaykh to show you the way, otherwise half of the knowledge is not completed". They informed me that (the greatest of his age) Shaykh Ismail himself had chosen me among all people to he one of his closest private circle of followers.
I was absolutely delighted when I heard the news. In fact I cried in response to the divine care which had elevated me to the highest and best places simply because I had been following the steps of Sidi al- Hadi al-Hafian, who was a Sufi Shaykh known for his miracles, and I had become one of his closest followers. Also I accompanied Sidi Silah Balsaih and Sidi al-Jilani and other contemporary Sufi leaders. So I waited eagerly for that meeting. When I entered the Shaykh's house I looked curiously at the faces, and the place was full of followers. among whom were Shaykhs wearing spotless white robes. After the greeting ceremony ended, Shaykh Ismail appeared and every one stood up and started kissing his hands with great respect. His deputy winked at me to tell me that this was the Shaykh, but I did not show any enthusiasms for I was waiting for something different from what I saw. I had drawn an imaginary picture of him in my mind in accordance with what his agents and followers had told me about his miracles, and all I saw was an ordinary man without dignity or reverence. During the meeting I was introduced to him by his deputy, and the Shaykh received me warmly and sat me to his right and gave me some food. After dinner the ritual ceremony started and the deputy introduced me again to take the oath from the Shaykh, and everybody congratulated me and blessed me. Later on I understood from what men were saying that I was known to them, which encouraged me to disagree with some of the answers given by the Shaykh to questions from the audience. Such behaviour led some of the men to express their disgust and to consider it bad manners in the presence of the Shaykh who is usually left unchallenged. The Shaykh sensed the uneasy atmosphere and tried to cool the situation by using his wit, so he said, "He whose start is burning, his end will be shining." The audience took that as a graceful sign from the Shaykh, which would guarantee my shining end, and congratulated me for that. Howevers the Shaykh was clever and very experienced, so he did not let me continue with my irritable incursion and told us the following story:
One day a learned man attended a class held by a pious man and the pious man asked the learned man to go and get washed, so the learned man went and washed himself then returned to the class. The pious man repeated his demand, "Go and get washed". The learned man went and washed himself again thinking that he had not done it right the first time. When he came back to the class, the pious man asked him to wash again. The learned man started crying and said.
"Master, I have washed myself from my work and knowledge and I have nothing left except that which Allah has granted me through your hands." At that moment the pious man said, "Now you can sit down," I realized that I was the one whom the Shaykh referred to in the story, and everyone else realized that as well, for they rebuked me when the Shaykh left us to have a rest. They asked me to be silent and to show respect for the Shaykh lest I fail in my work, basing their argument on the Qur'anic verse:
O you who believe! Do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet, and do not speak loud to him as you speak to one another, lest your deeds become null while you do not perceive. (Holy Qur'an 49:2). I then recognized my limits, so I complied and obeyed the orders, and the Shaykh kept me near him, and subsequently I stayed with him for three days, during which I asked him many questions, some of them to test his knowledge. The Shaykh knew that and used to answer me by saying that there are two meanings for the Qur'an. One revealed and another hidden to a seventh degree. He opened his private safe for me and showed me a personal document which contained the names of pious and learned people connecting him with Imam Ali via many people such as Abu al-Hasan al- Shadhili.
It is worth noting here that these meetings held by the Shaykh are spiritual ones, and usually start with the Shaykh reciting and chanting some verses from the Qur'an. After that he reads a few poetic verses followed by chants and "dhikrs" by the men, and these chants are mainly centred around asceticism, piety and the renunciation of this life and the eagerness to seek the life hereafter. After having finished with this part, the first man on the right hand side of the Shaykh reads what he can from the Qur'an, and when he says "And Allah said that truthfully" the Shaykh reads the beginning of another piece of poetry and the whole congregation recites it after him, each person then reading a Qur'anic verse. Shortly after that the men start leaning gently to the left and to the right, moving with the rhythms of the chants until the Shaykh stands up, and with him all the congregation, forming a circle with him at the centre.
Next they start chanting Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, and the Shaykh turns around in the centre, then goes to each one of them, and shortly after that the tempo heats up and the men start jumping up and down, shouting in an organized but irritating rhythm. After some hard work, quietness gradually prevails, and the Shaykh reads his last pieces of poetic verse, and then everybody comes to kiss the Shaykh's head and shoulders until they finally sit down. I have shared with those people in their rituals but not convincingly, for they contradicted my own beliefs of not attributing any associates to Allah i.e. not to request anything but from Allah. I fell on the floor crying and my mind scattered between two contradictory ideas.
One being the Sufi ideology in which a man goes through a spiritual experience based on the feeling of fear, on asceticism and on trying to approach Allah through the saints and the learned men. The second idea was the Wahabi which had taught me that all of that was an attempt to attribute associates to Allah, and that Allah will never forgive them. If the Great Prophet Muhammad (saw) cannot help, nor could he intercede, then what is the value of those saints and pious people who came after him. In spite of the new position given to me by the Shaykh, for he appointed me as his deputy in Gafsa, I was not totally convinced, although I sometimes sympathized with the Sufi orders and felt that I should continue to respect them for the sake of those saints and God fearing people. I often argued, basing my argument on the Qur'anic verse:
And call not with Allah any other god, there is no other god but He. (Holy Quran 28:88) And if somebody said to me that Allah said:
O you who believe be careful of (your duty to) Allah and seek means of nearness to Him. (Holy Quran 5:35) I answered him quickly in the way that the Saudi Ulama had taught me by saying "The way to seek Allah is by doing a good deed." In any case, my mind was rather confused and troubled during that period, but from time to time some followers came to my house, where we celebrated al-Imarah (a type of dhikr). Our neighbours felt uneasy about the noises which we produced, but could not confront me, therefore they complained to my wife, via their wives, and when I learnt about the problem, I asked the followers to celebrate dhikr elsewhere. I excused myself by informing them that I was going abroad for three months, so I said farewell to my family and friends and sought my God, depending on Him, and not believing in any other god but Him.
I stayed in Tripoli, the Lybian Capital, long enough to obtain an entry visa from the Egyptian Embassy to enter the land of Kinana i.e. Egypt. I met a few friends who helped me in this matter, so may Allah reward them for their effort. The road to Cairo is a long one, it took us three days and nights, during which I shared a taxi with four other Egyptians working in Libya who were on their way home. Throughout the journey I chatted too them and read the Qur'an for them, so they liked me and asked me to be their guest in Egypt. I chose one of them, Ahmed. I felt very fond of him for he was a pious man and he gave me the highest level of hospitality. I stayed in Cairo twenty days during which I visited the singer Farid al-Atrash in his flat overlooking the Nile. I liked him for what I had read about his modesty in the Egyptian press, but I only managed to meet him for twenty minutes because he was on his way to fly to Lebanon.
I visited Shaykh Abdul Basit Muhammad Abdul Samad, the famous reciter of the Qur'an, whose voice I liked very much. I stayed with him for three days, and during that time I discussed with his friends and relatives many issues and they liked me for my enthusiasm, frankness and knowledge. If they talked about art, I sang; and if they spoke about asceticism and sufism, I told them that I followed the Tijani order as well as the Medani; and if they spoke about the West I told them about Paris, London, Belgium, Holland, Italy and Spain which I visited during the summer holidays; and if they spoke about the pilgrimage, I told them that I had made the pilgrimage to Mecca and that I was on my way to perform the Umrah. I told them about places which were not known to people who had been on pilgrimage seven times such as the caves of Hira and Thawr and the Altar of Ismail. If they spoke about sciences and technology I gave them all the figures and the scientific names; and if they spoke about politics, I told them my views saying, "May Allah bless the soul of al-Nasir Salah al-Din al- Ayyubi who deprived himself from smiling, and when some of his closest friends criticized him by saying: The great Prophet (s.a.w.) was often seen smiling, he answered: How do you want me to smile when the al-Aqsa Mosque is occupied by the enemies of Allah...Nay...by the name of Allah I will never smile until I liberate it or die."
Some of al-Azhar's Shaykhs used to come to these meetings and liked what I recited from the Qur'anic verses and the sayings of the Great Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), besides they were impressed by my strong arguments and asked me from which university I had graduated. I used to answer them proudly that I graduated from al-Zaituna University which was established before al-Azhar, and added, that the Fatimids - who established al-Azhar - started from the town of al-Mahdiah in Tunis.
I met many learned people in al-Azhar, and some of them presented me with a few books.
One day while I was at the office of an official responsible for the al-Azhar affairs, a member of the Egyptian Revolutionary Command Council came to attend a mass meeting for the Muslim and Coptic Communities in one of the biggest Railway Companies in Cairo. The mass meeting was held in protest against Sabotage activities in the aftermath of the June war. The member of the Command Council insisted on my accompanying him to the meeting, so I accepted the invitation, and sat on the VIP rostrum between father Shnoodah and the Azhari Shaykh. I was also asked to address the meeting, which I did with ease due to my experience in giving lectures in Mosques and Cultural Committees in Tunis.
The main point which I have mentioned in this chapter is that I started feeling big and somehow over confident, and I thought I had actually become learned. Why should I not feel so when there were a number of Ulama from al-Azhar who attested for me, some of them even told me that my place was there, i.e. at al-Azhar. What really made me proud of myself was the fact that I was allowed to see some of the Great Prophet's (s.a.w.) relics. An official from Sidi al-Husayn Mosque in Cairo took me to a room which could only be opened by himself. After we entered he locked it behind us, then he opened a chest and got the Great Prophet's (s.a.w.) shirt and showed it to me. I kissed the shirt, then he showed me other relics which belonged to the Prophet(s.a.w.), and when I came out of the room I cried and was touched by that personal gesture, especially when the official did not request any money from me, in fact he refused to take it when I offered it to him. In the end, and only after my insistence, he took a small amount and then he congratulated me for being one of those who have been honoured by the grace of the Great Prophet (s.a.w.).
Perhaps that visit left a deep impression on me, and I thought for a few nights about what the Wahabis say regarding the Great Prophet(s.a.w.), and how he died and passed away like any other dead person. I did not like that idea and became convinced of its falsity, for if the Martyr who gets killed fighting in the name of Allah is not dead but alive (by his God), then how about the master of the first and last. My feelings became clearer and stronger due to my early encounters with the teachings of the Sufis who give their Shaykhs and Saints full power to see to their affairs. They believe that only Allah could give them this power because they obeyed Him and accepted willingly what He offered them. Did He not state in the sacred saying: "My servant ... Obey me, then you will be like me, you order the thing to be, and it will be."
The struggle within myself started to have its effect on me. By then I had come to the end of my stay in Egypt, but not before visiting, in the last few days, a number of mosques and I prayed in all of them. I visited the mosques of Malik, Abu Hanifah, al-Shafii, Ahmed ibn Hanbal, al-Sayyidah Zaynab and Sidi al-Husayn; I also visited the Zawiah of al- Tijani Sufi order, and I have many stories about the visits, some of them are long, but I prefer to be brief.
I traveled to Alexandria on the exact day when there was an Egyptian ship on her way to Beirut. I felt exhausted both physically and mentally, so as soon as I got on the ship I went to bed and slept for two or three hours. I woke up when I heard a voice saying: "The brother seems to be tired." I replied positively and said: "The journey from Cairo to Alexandria made me feel so tired, because I wanted to be on time, so I did not have enough sleep last night." I realized that the man was not Egyptian because of his accent, and I was, as usual, curious about him and eager to introduce myself to him. Apparently he was an Iraqi lecturer from the University of Baghdad and his name was Munim. He came to Cairo to submit his Ph.D. thesis at al-Azhar University.
We started our conversation by talking about Egypt and the Arab and the Muslim worlds, and we talked about the Arab defeat and the Jewish victory. The topics we covered through our conversation varied, and at one point I said that the reason behind the defeat was because of the divisions of the Arabs and Muslims into many small countries, so that despite the great number of their populations, their enemies do not pay any consideration to them.
We talked about Egypt and the Egyptians, and we both agreed about the reasons behind the defeat. I added that I was against these divisions which were emphasized by the colonial powers in order to facilitate our occupation and humiliation. I said that we even differentiated between the Hanafi and the Maliki and told him a sad story about an incident which happened to me in the "Abu Hanifah Mosque" in Cairo. While I was there I prayed the afternoon prayer "al- Asr" with the men, and after we finished, the man standing next to me asked me with some anger, "Why did you not fold your hands in front of you during the prayers?" I replied with respect and courtesy that the Malikis prefer to drop their hands, and after all I am a Maliki. His reaction was: "Go to Maliki mosque and pray there." I left the mosque feeling disgusted and bitter, and I became even more perplexed.
The Iraqi teacher then smiled and told me that he was a Shi'i. I was a little disturbed by his answer and thoughtlessly said, "If I knew you were a Shi'i, I would not have spoken to you." He asked: "Why?." I replied, "Because you are not Muslims. You worship Ali ibn Abi Talib, and the moderates among you worship Allah but do not believe in the message of the prophet Muhammad(s.a.w.). You curse the Archangel Gabriel for betraying what he was entrusted with. Instead of delivering the message to Ali he gave it to Muhammad."
I continued with this type of anecdote while my companion listened carefully, at times smiling and at times showing his astonishment. When I finished talking, he asked me again, "Are you a teacher, teaching students?" I answered, "Yes." He said, "If that is what the teachers think, then we cannot blame the ordinary people who barely have any edu- cation." I said, "What do you mean?" He answered, "I beg your pardon, but from where did you get all these false allegations?" I told him that my information came from famous history books, and the rest is common knowledge. Then he said, "Well let us leave the people, but could you tell me what books have you read?" I started mentioning a few books, such as those by Ahmed Amin "Fajr al-Islam, Duha al-Islam and Zuhor al-Islam" and many others. He asked: "Since when has Ahmed Amin been an authority on the Shia?" He added, "To be fair and objective, one has to refer to the original sources of the subject." I said, "Why should I investigate a subject which is common knowledge to all people?" He replied, "Ahmed Amin himself has visited Iraq, and I was one of the teachers he met in Najaf, and when we rebuked him about what he had written about the Shia, he said that he was sorry, and he did not know anything about the Shia, and that was the first time he had met Shias. We told him that his excuse was worse than his mistake, for how could he write bad things about us when he did not know anything about us?"
He added, "Brother, if we judge the Jews and the Christians through the Holy Qur'an, they would not accept the judgement, despite the fact that the Qur'an is our absolute proof. Therefore, we should show their mistakes in their books, because then the proof would be stronger, in accordance to the saying: From among them, there was one who bore witness against them." His speech fell on my heart like cold water falling on the heart of a thirsty man, and I changed from a bitter critic to someone who is willing to listen and think, because I felt there was a sound logic and a strong proof. So I had to show some modesty and listen to him. I said to him, "So you are one of those who believe in the message of our prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.)?" He replied, "All Shias like me believe in it. Brother, you had better investigate the matter yourself, so you do not have any doubt about your brothers, the Shias because perhaps some doubt is a sin." He added, "If you really want to know the truth and to see it with your own eyes so you could convince yourself, then I invite you to visit Iraq, and there you will meet the Ulama of the Shia, as well as the ordinary people, and then you will recognize the malicious lies."
I said, "It has been my wish to visit Iraq one day to see its famous Islamic heritage, especially the Abbasid heritage, and in particular that of Harun al-Rashid. But, first of all, my financial resources are limited, and I have just enough to enable me to perform Umrah. Secondly, my present passport does not allow me to enter Iraq". He replied: "Firstly, when I invited you to come to Iraq, that meant that I will take care of all your traveling costs between Beirut and Baghdad, both ways, and while you are in Iraq you will be staying with me, for you are my guest. Secondly, as far as the passport which does not allow you to enter Iraq, let us leave it to Allah, praise be to Him the Most High, and if Allah has decreed that you will visit, then it will be, even without a passport. However, we shall try to obtain an entry visa for you as soon as we arrive Beirut".
I was very glad about that offer, and I promised my friend to answer his question the next day, if Allah the Most High willed it. I got out of the bedroom and onto the ship's deck breathing the fresh air, thinking seriously, while my mind was taken by the sea which filled the horizon. I thanked my God, Who created the universe, and who brought me to this place. I asked Him, praise be to Him the Most High, to protect me from evil and the wicked and to guard me against errors and mistakes.
My mind wandered as I started to recall a series of events that I had experienced in the past... I remembered that happiness of my childhood up to that day and dreamed of a bet- ter future. . . I felt as if Allah and His Messenger were providing me with a special care. I looked towards Egypt, whose shores appeared from time to time on the horizon, and remembered how I had kissed the shirt of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), they were my most precious memories of Egypt.
I recalled the words of the Shi'i which brought great joy to my heart, for it would fulfill an old dream of mine, that is to visit Iraq the country which reminded me of the court of al-Rashid and al-Mamun, who established Dar al-Hikmah which was sought by many students from the West in the days when the Islamic civilization was at its peak. In addition to that, it is the country of Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, whose reputation had reached all countries, and whose Sufi order had entered every village ... a man whose high-mindedness surpassed everyone else's. That, I thought, was another divine care from Allah to fulfill the dream. My mind wandered again until I was awoke by the sound of the loudspeaker calling the passengers to go to the canteen for their dinner, I made my way to the place but I found it was crowded with people, shouting and bustling as they were trying to enter it.
Suddenly, I felt the Shi'i pulling me by my shirt, saying: "Come here brother do not bother yourself, we will eat later without this crowd. In fact I looked for you everywhere." Then he asked me, "Have you prayed?" I answered, "No, I have not prayed yet." So he asked me to join him in his prayers and later to come and eat after all the hustle and bustle had gone.
I liked the idea, so I accompanied him to an isolated place where we did our ablution, then I asked him to lead the prayers in front to test him and to see how he prayed, with the intention of doing my prayers later on. As soon as he called for the obligatory prayers at sunset and started reciting (Qur'anic verses) and reading various supplications, I changed my mind. I felt as if I was led by one of those pious and God fearing Companions of the Prophet, about whom I had read a lot. After he finished his prayers he read long supplications that I had not heard either in my country or in the countries I knew. I felt at ease every time I heard him praising the Prophet Muhammad(s.a.w.) and his family and giving them what they rightly deserve.
After the prayers I noticed tears in his eyes, also I heard him asking Allah to open my eyes and to lead me to the right direction. We went to the canteen which was almost empty, and he did not sit down until I had sat down, and when they brought us the food, he changed his dish for mine because his had more meat than mine. He treated me as if I was his guest and kept telling me stories that I had never heard before concerning food, drink and table manners. I liked his manners. He led the evening prayers and extended it by reciting long supplications until I started crying, then I asked Allah, praise be to Him, to change my suspicions about the man because "Some doubt might be a sin." But who knows?
I slept that night dreaming about Iraq and the Arabian Nights, and I was awoke by my friend calling the dawn prayers. We prayed together, then sat and talked about Allah's graces on the Muslims. We went back to sleep and when I got up again I found him sitting on his bed with a rosary in his hand mentioning the name of Allah, so I felt more at ease with him, and asked my God for forgiveness.
We were having our lunch in the canteen when we heard from the loudspeaker that the ship was approaching the Lebanese shores, and with Allah's help, we would be in Beirut harbour in two hours time. He asked me if I had thought about the matter, and what I had decided. I told him if Allah willed it and I got an entry visa, then I did not see why not, and I thanked him for his invitation. We arrived in Beirut, where we spent one night then we left for Damascus. As soon as we got to Damascus we went to the Iraqi Embassy there and obtained a visa at incredible speed. When we left the Embassy he congratulated me, and we thanked Allah for His help.
We left Damascus for Baghdad in one of the al-Najaf International Company coaches.
When we arrived in Baghdad, where the temperature was 40 degrees, we went to the Jamilah quarter in the district of al-Ummal, and entered my friend's airconditioned house. We had a rest, then he brought me a long shirt called Dishdasha. Some fruit and food were also brought for me. Then members of his family came to greet me with respect and politeness, and his father embraced me as if we had known each other before. As for my friend's mother, who stood at the door wearing a long black coat, she also greeted me and welcomed me. My friend apologized on behalf of his mother who could not shake my hands, because it was not permitted. I liked their manners and said to myself, "These people whom we accused of being deviants seem to observe the religion more than us." During the days of our travel together I sensed in my friend his noble manners, his self-esteem and his generosity. I also sensed in him modesty and piousness that I had never experienced with anybody else before. I felt that I was not a stranger, but as if I was at home.
When darkness fell, we went up on the roof of the house where there were some beds prepared for us. I could not go to sleep easily for I was in a state of delirium: Was I really in Baghdad next to Sidi Abdul Qadir al-Jilani? My friend laughed as he asked me what do the Tunisian people think of Abdul Qadir al-Jilani. I started telling him about the miracles which are attributed to him, and all the places which are established and named after him. I told him that he is the "Centre of the circle", and as Muhammad the Messenger of Allah is the master of all the prophets, Abdul Qadir is the master of all the saints. His feet are on the necks of all the saints, and it was him who said, "Everyone goes round the house seven times, and I will go around the house with my tents."
I tried to convince him that Shaykh Abdul Qadir came to see his followers and treat them if they were ill and comfort them if they were depressed. I might have forgotten the influence of the Wahabi ideas on me, which state that all of that is polytheism. When I noticed the lack of enthusiasm in my friend, I tried to convince myself that all of what I have said was not right. I also asked him about his opinion.
My friend laughed and said, "Tonight have a good sleep and rest your tired body, and tomorrow, if Allah wills it, we will go and visit the grave of Shaykh Abdul Qadir." I was absolutely delighted with the news and wished it was dawn then. I was so tired that I went into a deep sleep and did not get up until the sun was shining on me. I missed my prayer, and my friend told me that he tried several times to wake me up but without success, so he left me to rest.
After breakfast we went to Bab al-Shaykh and saw the place that I had always wished to visit. I ran to enter the place like a man who was eager to see him and to throw myself on his lap. I mixed with the multitude of visitors who were gathering around the place like the pilgrims in the House of Allah. Some of the visitors were throwing sweets, so I quickly picked up two. I ate one for blessing and kept the other in my pocket as a souvenir. I prayed there, recited some supplications and drank water as if I was drinking from Zamzam. I asked my friend to wait for me until I wrote a few postcards to my friends in Tunisia to show them the picture of the place of Shaykh Abdul Qadir with its green dome. I wanted to prove to my friends and relatives in Tunisia my high state which brought me to this place that they have never been able to reach. We had our lunch in a popular restaurant in the middle of the capital, then I was taken by my friend to a place called al- Kazimiyyah. I only got to know that name through him mentioning it to the taxi driver who took us there. When we arrived in al-Kazimiyyah we joined a multitude of people, children, men and women walking in the same direction. Everyone was carrying something with him or her, which reminded me of the time of the pilgrimage. I did not know where they were going until I noticed a glittering coming from golden domes and minarets. I understood that it was a Shia mosque, because I knew before that they decorate their mosques with gold and silver; something Islam has prohibited. I did not feel at ease when we entered the mosque, but I had to respect my friend's feelings and follow him without choice.
When we entered the first door I noticed that some old people were touching it and kissing it, so I engaged myself with reading a plaque saying: "Unveiled Ladies are not allowed to enter", with a saying by Imam Ali: "A day will come when women are seen wearing transparent clothes or even naked...etc." When we reached the shrines, my friend started reading the permission to enter, while I occupied myself by looking at the gate and I was astonished by all the gold and engravings of the Qur'anic verses which covered that gate. My friend entered first then I followed him, and my mind was full of the legends and fables which I had read in books which condemn the Shia. Inside the shrine I saw engravings and decorations that I have never seen before, and I was surprised by them and felt as if I was in an unknown and unfamiliar world. From time to time I looked with disgust at those people who were going around the grave, crying and kissing its bars and corners, while others were praying near the grave. At that moment a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) came to my mind, which states: "Allah cursed the Jews and Christians for making mosques of the graves of their saints." I walked away from my friend, who, as soon as he entered, started crying, and left him to do his prayers. I approached the plaque which was written especially for the visitors and read it but could not understand most of it because it contained strange names that I did not know. I went to a corner and read the Opening Surah of the Qur'an (al-Fatiha) and asked Allah for mercy on the person who is inside the grave saying: "O Allah if this dead person is a Muslim then have mercy on him for You know him better than I do." My friend came near me and whispered in my ears, "If you want anything. you better ask Allah in this place because we call it the gate of requests." I did not pay much attention to what he said. God forgive me, rather, I was looking at the old men with black or white turbans on their heads and the signs of prostration on their foreheads, with their long perfumed beards, which added to their dignity alongside their awesome looks.
I noticed that as soon as one of them entered the shrine, he started crying, and I asked myself, "Is it possible that all these tears are false? Is it possible that all these old people are wrong?. I came out perplexed and astonished about what I had seen, while my friend walked backwards, as a sign of respect, so that he did not turn his back to the shrine. I asked him, "Whose shrine is that?" He said, "Imam Musa al-Kazim." I asked, "Who is Musa al-Kazim?" He said, "Praise Allah! You, our brothers, of the Sunni sect ignored the essence and kept the shell".
I answered him angrily, "What do you mean we ignored the essence and kept the shell?" He calmed me down and said, "My brother, since you came to Iraq you never stopped talking about Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, but who is Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, and why should he attract all your attention?" I immediately replied proudly, "He is one of the descendants of the Prophet. And had there been a prophet after Muhammad it would have been Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, may Allah be pleased with him." He said, "Brother al-Samawi, do you know Islamic history?"
I answered without hesitation, "Yes." In fact what I knew of Islamic history was very little because our teachers prevented us from learning it, for they claimed that it was a black history, and not worth reading. I remember, for example, when our Arabic Rhetoric teacher was teaching the Shaqshaqiyyah oration from the book "Nahj al-Balaghah" by Imam Ali, that I was puzzled, as were many other students, when we read it, but I dared to ask the following question: "Are these truly the words of Imam Ali?" He answered: "Definitely, who would have had this eloquence apart from him. If it were not his saying, why should the Muslim scholars like Shaykh Muhammad Abduh, the Mufti of Egypt, concern themselves with its interpretation?" Then I said, "Imam Ali accuses Abu Bakr and Umar that they robbed him of his right to succeed as Caliph".
The teacher was outraged and he rebuked me very strongly and threatened to expel me from the class, and added, "We teach Arabic Rhetoric and not history. We are not concerned with the dark episodes of history and its bloody wars between Muslims, and in as much as Allah has cleaned our swords from their blood, let us clean our tongues by not condemning them". I was not satisfied with the reasoning, and remained indignant towards that teacher who was teaching us Arabic Rhetoric without meaning. I tried on many occasions to study Islamic history but I did not have enough references nor the ability to buy books. Also I did not find any of our learned people to be interested in the subject, and it seemed to me as if all of them had agreed to forget all about it and not to look into the matter. Therefore, there was no one who had a complete history book
When my friend asked me about my knowledge in history, I just wanted to oppose him, so I answered him positively, but it was as if I was saying, "It is a dark history, full of civil strives, intrigues and contradictions." He said, "Do you know when Abdul Qadir al-Jilani was born?" I answered, "Approximately between the sixth and the seventh century." He said, "How many centuries then have elapsed between him and the Messenger of Allah?" I said, "six cen- turies." He said, "If there are two generations in a century then there were at least twelve generations between Abdul Qadir al-Jilani and the Messenger".
I agreed. Then he said, "This is Musa ibn Jafer ibn Muhammad ibn Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Fatima al-Zahra, between him and his great-great-great grandfather, the Messenger of Allah, there were only four generations. In fact he was born in the second Hijra century, so, who is nearer to the Messenger of Allah, Musa or Abdul Qadir? Without thinking I said, "Him of course. But why don't we know him or hear people refer to him?" He said, "This is the point, and that is why I said, and allow me to repeat it, that you have ignored the essence and kept the shell, so please do not blame me and I beg your pardon." We talked and talked, and from time to time we stopped until we reached a learning place where there were teachers and students discussing ideas and theories. As we sat there I noticed my friend started looking for somebody, as if he had prior appointment.
A man came towards us and greeted us then started talking with my friend, and from the conversation I understood that they were colleagues at the university, and that another colleague was coming to the place soon. My friend said to me, "I brought you to this place to introduce you to a historian scholar who is a professor of history at the University of Baghdad, and his Ph.D. thesis was about Abdul Qadir al- Jilani and he will be of use to you, with the help of Allah, because I am not a specialist in history". We drank some cold juice until the historian arrived, and I was introduced to him, then my friend asked him to give me a brief historical view on Abdul Qadir al- Jilani. After we had more cold drinks, the historian asked me questions about myself, my country and my job and asked me to talk to him about the reputation of Abdul Qadir al-Jilani in Tunis.
I gave him plenty of information in this field and told him that people think that Abdul Qadir carried the Messenger of Allah on his neck during the night of Mi'raj [the night of the prophet Muhammad's (s.a.w.) ascension to the seven heavens] when Gabriel was late for fear of getting burnt. The Messenger of Allah told him then, "My foot is on your neck and your foot will be on the neck of all the saints until the day of Judgement."
The historian laughed when he heard what I said, but I did not know whether he laughed at those stories or at the Tunisian teacher standing in front of him! After a short discussion about the saints and the pious people, he told me that he had researched for seven years, during which he traveled to Lahore in Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Britain and to all the places where there are manuscripts attributed to Abdul Qadir al-Jilani and he scrutinized them and photographed them but could not find any proof indicating that Abdul Qadir al-Jilani was a descendant of the Messenger. All what he found was a verse attributed to one of his offspring in which he says, "...and my forefather was the Messenger of Allah: " It was perhaps the interpretation of some of the learned people of the saying of the Prophet "I am the grandfather [forefather] of every pious person." He also informed me that recent historical research proved that Abdul Qadir al-Jilani was not an Arab but of a Persian origin, and came from a small town in Iran called Jilan, and he moved to Baghdad where he studied and then taught at a time when there was a moral decay. He was a God-fearing man and people liked him, so when he died they established the Qadiriyyah sufi order in his memory, as was the case with the followers of any Sufi teacher. He added, "Truly, the Arabs are in a lamentable state with regard to this situation."
A Wahabi rage stormed in my mind and I said, "Therefore, Doctor, you are a Wahabi in ideology, for they believe in what you are saying, there are no saints." He said, "No, I am not a follower of the Wahabi ideology. It is regretful that the Muslims tend to exaggerate and take extreme views. They either believe in all the legends and fables which are not based on logic or canonical law, or they deny everything, even the miracles of our Prophet Muhammad(s.a.w.) and his sayings because they do not suit their way of thinking."
For example, the Sufis believe in the possibility of Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani being present in, let us say, Baghdad and Tunis at the same time; he could cure a sick man in Tunis and simultaneously rescue a drowning man in the River Tigris in Baghdad. This is an exaggeration. As a reaction to the Sufi thinking, the Wahabis denied everything, and they said that even the pleading to the Prophet is polytheism, and this is negligence. No my brother! We are as Allah said in His Glorious Book:
And thus we have made you a medium (just) nation that you may be the bearers of witness to the people. (Holy Qur'an 2:143).
I liked what he had said very much, and thanked him for it. I also expressed some conviction in his argument. He opened his briefcase and got his book on Abdul Qadir al- Jilani and gave it to me as a present. He then invited me to his house but I excused myself, so we talked about Tunis and North Africa until my friend came back and then we returned home after having spent the whole day visiting friends and holding discussions.
I felt tired and exhausted, so I went to sleep. I got up early in the morning and started reading the book which dealt with the life of Abdul Qadir, and by the time my friend got up I had finished half of the book. He asked me several times to have my breakfast, but I refused until I had finished the book. I became attached to the book which put me in a state of scepticism which lasted until just before I left Iraq.
I stayed in my friend's house for three days, during which I had a rest and thought carefully about what I had heard from these people whom I had encountered and who appeared to me as if they were living on the moon. Why had people always told us nasty things about them, and why should I hate them and despise them without knowing them? Perhaps all this had come from the rumours we hear about them that they worship Ali, and that they view their Imams as gods and believe in reincarnation, and worship stones rather than Allah, and they - as my father had told me after he came back from pilgrimage - came to the Prophet's grave to throw dirt on it, and were caught by the Saudis who sentenced them to death ... etc ... etc ...
After hearing all that, it is not surprising that other Muslims hate and despise, even fight the Shia. But how could I believe these rumours after all I had seen with my eyes and heard with my ears. I spent over a week amongst these people and I did not see or hear from them anything that is not compatible with logic. In fact I liked the way they worshipped, I liked their prayers, their manners, and the respect they gave to their learned people, and wished that I could be one of them. I kept asking myself, "Is it true they hate the Messenger of Allah, and every time I mentioned his name, and often I did that just to test them, they shouted from the heart "May Allah bless Muhammad and his household"? At the beginning I thought they were hypocrites, but later I changed my mind, especially after I read some of their books in which I found a great deal of respect and veneration for the Messenger which I have never found in our books. For example, they believe in the absolute infallibility of the Prophet Muhammad (saw), before and after his mission. Whereas we, the Sunnis, believe in his infallibility in delivering the Qur'an only, and apart from that he was just another human being, subject to committing mistakes. We have many examples to show that the Prophet was wrong and that he was corrected by his Companions. The Shia refuse to accept the fallibility of the Prophet while others were correct. So after that, how could I believe that they hate the Messenger of Allah? How could I? One day while I was talking to my friend I asked him to answer me frankly, and the following dialogue took place:
- You place Ali, may Allah be please with him, and may He honour him, at the same level as the prophets, because whenever I hear his name mentioned you say "Peace be on him".
- That is right whenever we mention the name of the Commander of the Faithful [Imam Ali or one of the Imams of his off-spring we say "Peace be upon him", but this does not mean that they are prophets. However, they are the descendants of the Prophet, and Allah has ordered us to pray for them, therefore we are allowed to say "May Allah bless them and grant them peace" as well.
- No brother, we do not say "May Allah bless him and grant him peace" except on the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and on the Prophets who came before him, and there is nothing to do with Ali or his descendants, may Allah be pleased with them all, in this matter.
- I would like to ask you to read more, so that you know the truth.
- Brother, which books should I read? Is it not you who told me that the books of Ahmed Amin are not the authoritative books on the Shia, in the meantime the Shia's hooks are not the authoritative books on us and we do not rely on them. Do you not see that the Christians' hooks which they refer to, state that Jesus said, "I am the son of Allah" while the Glorious Qur'an - which says the absolute truth - quotes Jesus saying "I did not say anything to them except what you have ordered me to do, and that is to worship Allah, my God and your God." (Holy Qur'an 5:117)
- Well said ! I did say that. What I want from you is this, to use one's mind and logic and to base one's argument on the Glorious Qur'an and the correct Sunna [the Prophet Muhammad's (saw) tradition] as long as we are Muslims, and if we were talking to a Jew or Christian then we would have based our argument on something else.
- Well, in which book will I find the truth? Every writer, every group and every creed claims to be the right one.
- I will give you tangible evidence which is agreed on by all Muslims regardless of their creed or group, but you do not know it.
- Say, God, grant me more knowledge.
- Have you read the commentary on the following Qur'anic verse: "Surely Allah and His angels bless the Prophet. O you who believe call for (Divine) blessing on him and salute him always" (Holy Qur'an 33:56).
All the commentators, Shia and Sunnis, agreed that the Companions of the Prophet, about whom the above Qur'anic verse was revealed, cared to see the Prophet and said, "O Messenger of Allah we know how to salute you, but we do not know how to pray on you."
He said. "Say, may Allah bless Muhammad and the household of Muhammad in the same way as you bless Ibrahim and the household of Ibrahim in the world, You are the Praise-worthy and the Glorious, and do not pray on me by the shortened [al-Batra'] prayer." They said, And what is the shortened prayer, O Messenger of Allah?" He said, Why do you say may Allah bless Muhammad and then stop, for Allah is perfect and only accepts perfection." After that the Prophet's companions followed the Prophet's order and they performed the complete prayer.
Even Imam al-Shafii said in their honour:
O household of the Messenger of Allah Your love is an order from Allah revealed in the Qur'an You are highly honoured, and he who does not bless you, his prayer is not valid.
I listened very carefully to what he had said, and his words entered my heart
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