Monday, November 27, 2017

Historic visit to the Cape by Tuan Guru descendant

Sekretaris Muhammad Amin Faruq is re-united with his Tidorean ancestor after 127 years. © Shafiq Morton
HISTORY was made in the Cape this past month when a direct descendant of Imam ‘Abdullah ibn Qadi Abdus Salam (Tuan Guru), Sekretaris Muhammad Amin Faruq, toured the city together with the Sultan of Tidore, His Excellency Jo Hussain Abu Bakr Shah.

This was the first time that a delegation from Tuan Guru’s birthplace had ever visited the country. Sekretaris Faruq describes himself as the fifth generation from Sha’an Yughni, Tuan Guru’s third eldest son (of eleven), who was left behind in Tidore in 1779 when the Dutch exiled Tuan Guru to the Cape for political resistance.

Hosted by the Rakiep family, the delegation visited the Castle, the Slave lodge, the Awwal mosque, the Bo Kaap museum and parliament, amidst family functions and a symposium held at Islamia College. At parliament, the visitors were received by Minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, himself a descendent of Tuan Guru.

The historic visit was the culmination of decades of passionate, but largely unacknowledged research by the late Hajji Nur Erefaan Rakiep in locating Tuan Guru’s family in the eastern archipelago, and establishing his own family heritage.

According to Sekretaris Faruq, Tuan Guru is the grandson of Habib ‘Umar Rahmat al-Faruq, who left Cirebon in northwest Java in the 17th century for Tidore. It has been established that Habib Faruq was a descendent of Sunan Gunung Jati, or Sharif Hidayutallah, one of the Wali Songo, or nine founding saints of Java.

An examination of the family chains, though sometimes broken, do reveal that Tuan Guru (via Sharif Hidayutallah) could have been a Hussaini Sayyid, from the line of Zain ul-‘Abidin to ‘Ali al-‘Uraidhi from Imam Ahmad al-Muhajir, who trekked to the Hadhramaut in about 820 CE from Basra in Iraq.

It is believed that the offspring of Sayyid ‘Alawi bin ‘Ubaidallah, descended from the house of Imam Ahmad Muhajir, travelled to the Far East, Pakistan and India. Sharif Hidayutallah (died circa 1558 CE) traces his lineage through Sayyid ‘Abdullah Azmat Khan of India. 

There are no links of Tuan Guru to Morocco, which has been the result of a confused transcription of “Molluca” or “Maluku”, the sea bordering Tidore.

The climax of the tour occurred on a baking hot morning, 30 October, when the Sultan and Sekretaris Faruq visited the grave of their long lost island ancestor, for the first time, at the Tana Baru above the Bo Kaap. It proved to be a deeply moving, and poignant, reunion with many tears.

In an interview at the grave, Sekretaris Faruq said that the visit of the Tidoreans had been a historic moment, as for years, nobody had known where Tuan Guru was. He said it was interesting that Tuan Guru had been honoured as “Mister Teacher” in the Cape, as in Tidore he had been given the honorific title “Jo Guru”, almost the same equivalent, before his exile.

The Sultan of Tidore said that his visit had been inspiring. He said that when he returned home he would seek an appointment with the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, to get Tuan Guru declared a national hero in the same way that Shaykh Yusuf of Makasar and Prince Nuku – who’d both resisted the Dutch – had been honoured.

Shafiq Morton is currently researching a book on Tuan Guru entitled “The Life and Times of Tuan Guru” under the aegis of Awqaf SA.

His Excellency Jo Hussain Abu Bakr Shah (right) wearing the ceremonial yellow of the Tidorean sultanate.

When even the devil is ashamed: the ‘mufti-universe’ of sectarianism and the admonitions of Sinai

THERE is a story that the devil sits on a throne, and that each day all the demons report back to him. The reward for the one who has perpetrated the worst possible deeds on earth, gets a chance to sit on the devil’s throne and to boast. And because the devil’s court is a house of naked envy, all the other demons get jealous, and want to destroy the one on the throne.

So when the devil takes back his seat, the ‘victorious’ evil spirit finds itself thrown to the dogs of malice. The braggart that had previously enjoyed a few moments of notoriety – which he sees as fame – is soon set upon like a pack of hyenas, and forgotten.

A Sufi Shaykh, who passed on a few years ago, once said times had got so bad that even the devil himself was beginning to feel ashamed. A man of wit, even until the end, there is a definite barb in what the Shaykh said, as atrocity follows atrocity.

In our community, I have begun to wonder recently whether our own devil wears not Prada, but the self-imposed title of a ‘mufti’. Harsh, yes. But in a world of isms, especially sectarianism, anonymous local cyber gangsters – supporting a swarm of these ‘muftis’ – have been pouring hate, vitriol, and specifically polytheism and kufr, on a recently built Shi’ah mosque in Cape Town.  

Poor people are rooting in the dustbins outside their palatial homes, their brothers and sisters are crying for help in the townships, the youth are asking questions – and yet, these ‘muftis’ (there seem to be no women in their ranks) – blithely condemn others on  a manner of issues, and even regard them as a threat to their faith.

There are some serious questions here: firstly, if someone else’s beliefs are threat to yours, have you not considered that they might not be threat to mine?

Secondly, in traditional Islam, classical Ahlus Sunni Islam a mufti is an honoured position bestowed upon a learned elder by other learned elders, usually in the area of Usul ul-Fiqh, the understanding and application of Shari’ah. In classical Ahlus Sunni Islam, a mufti is a solitary title given to the most senior, experienced jurist in a city, or a country. It is, therefore, surreal that we should have so many ‘muftis’ in South Africa.

Thirdly, there is the irresponsible abandon with which things are declared forbidden in this ‘mufti universe’, this done without adequate legal argument, maslahah (the concept of social benefit) or consideration of valid opposing views – all pre-requisites of fiqh.

In addition. the willingness to indulge in takfir – in our case a blanket declaration of unbelief on others one disagrees with creedally, or even politically –  is another symptom of the ‘mufti’ disease, and contrary to the tolerant spirit of the Ahlus Sunnah. And in case ‘tolerance’ is seen as a weakness, Sayyidina ‘Ali – the fourth Caliph – once threw an orator out of the mosque when he failed the tests of a scholar.  

On the question of takfir, all the Righteous Caliphs, Sayyidina Abu Bakr, Sayyidina ‘Umar, Sayyidina ‘Uthman and Sayyidina ‘Ali were always very reluctant to declare unbelief. This tradition was carried on by the famous legal imams, Imam Malik, Abu Hanifah, Imam Shafi’i and Imam Hanbal, as well as Ja’fr al-Sadiq.

Consequently, the obsession by some to declare a newly constructed Shi’ah mosque a ‘temple’ and a ‘house of kufr’ is a case of blind intolerance. It is, tragically, symptomatic of the sectarian culture of takfir, which has so bedevilled the Muslim community in recent decades – and in no small measure, is thanks to the house of Sa’ud and the dangerously reductionist notions of Ibn ‘Abd ul-Wahhab.

Yes, Sunni and Shi’ah do enjoy differences; some present testing academic questions. Unfortunately, space does not allow for anything more than an acknowledgment of this, but we are not trivialising things. What is more important here is to consider the adab ul-ikhtilaf, the honourable manner of dealing with difference – recommended by all scholars, via the example of the Prophet.

The point is that traditional Ahlus Sunnah scholars, whilst expressing their academic concerns about Shi’ism, have never declared the Shi’ah as polytheists or kafirs, and for over 1,400 years have allowed them to perform the Hajj cheek-by-jowl with Sunnis.

Historically, scholars of the Al-Azhar – such as Shaykh Shaltut of the pre Sisi era – have regarded Shi’ism as another ‘madh-hab’, or school of thought. Anyone who is uncomfortable with this, is free to contest it with the tools of Islamic discourse.

In countries such as Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Yemen, Shi’ah lived peacefully with Sunnis for centuries until the dark clouds of 20th century sectarianism – introduced by the takfiri psychosis of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Da’esh – gathered on our horizon. And dwelling on, or bemoaning, Zionist-western backed conspiracies serves no purpose, because we are the people who have to deal with the curse of takfiri sectarianism.

As we know, its worst excesses have manifested themselves in Syria, Iraq and various eastern and western capitals at the hands of Da’esh. The recent Sinai massacre, shocking in its execution and brutally inhumane in its bilious justification, is but the most recent example of the bloodthirsty spleen of preaching hate and takfir in the name of God.

Our local ‘muftis’ and their anonymous acolytes – pouring petrol on the local Shi’ah community whilst waving a match – need to understand the consequences of their inflammatory and thoroughly seditious behaviour. The Sinai massacre, after all, is the tragic end-game of takfir – and if we don’t heed the warning now, we are all doomed.