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Confession of a British Spy - Part 4

 

When I arrived in Basra, I settled in a mosque. The imam of the mosque was a Sunnite person of Arabic origin named Shaikh 'Umar Tai. When I met him I began to chat with him. Yet he suspected me at the very beginning and subjected me to a shower of questions. I managed to survive this dangerous chat as follows: "I am from Turkey's Igdir region. I was a disciple of Ahmad Effendi of Istanbul. I worked for a carpenter named Khalid (Halid)." I gave him some information about Turkey, which I had acquired during my stay there. Also, I said a few sentences in Turkish. The imam made an eye signal to one of the people there and asked him if I spoke Turkish correctly. The answer was positive. Having convinced the imam, I was very happy. Yet I was wrong. For a few days later, I saw to my disappointment that the imam suspected that I was a Turkish spy. Afterwards, I found out that there was some disagreement and hostility between him and the governor appointed by the (Ottoman) Sultan.

 

Having been compelled to leave Shaikh 'Umar Effendi's mosque, I rented a room in an inn for travelers and foreigners and moved there. The owner of the inn was an idiot named Murshid Effendi. Every morning he would disturb me by knocking hard at my door to wake me up as soon as the adhan for morning prayer was called. I had to obey him. So I would get up and perform the morning prayer. Then he would say, "You shall read Qur'an-al karim after morning prayer." When I told him that it was not fard (an act commanded by Islam) to read Qur'an al-karim and asked him why he should insist so much, he would answer, "Sleeping at this time of day will bring poverty and misfortune to the inn and the inmates." I had to carry out this command of his. For he said otherwise he would send me out of the inn. Therefore, as soon as the adhan was called, I would perform morning prayer and then read Qur'an al-karim for one hour.

 

One day Murshid Effendi came to me and said, "Since you rented this room misfortunes have been befalling me. I put it down to your ominousness. For you are single. Being single (unmarried) portends ill omen. You shall either get married or leave the inn." I told him I did not have property enough to get married. I could not tell him what I had told Ahmad Effendi. For Murshid Effendi was the kind of person who would undress me and examine my genitals to see whether I was telling the truth.

 

When I said so, Murshid Effendi reproved me, saying, "What a weak belief you have! Haven't you read Allah's ayat purporting, If they are poor, Allahu ta'ala will make them rich with His kindness'? (4)" I was stupefied. At last I said, "All right, I shall get married. But are you ready to provide the necessary money? Or can you find a girl who will cost me little?"

 

After reflecting for a while, Murshid Effendi said, "I don't care! Either get married by the beginning of Rajab month, or leave the inn." There were only twenty-five days before the beginning of the month of Rajab.

 

Incidentally, let me mention the Arabic months; Muharram, Safar, Rabi'ul-awwal, Rabi'ul-akhir, Jemaziy-ul-awwal, Jemaziy-ul-akhir, Rajab, Shaban, Ramadan, Shawwal, Zilqada, Zilhijja. Their months are neither more than thirty days, nor below twenty-nine. They are based on lunar calculations.

 

Taking a job as an assistant to a carpenter, I left Murshid Effendi's inn. We made an agreement on a very low wage, but my lodging and food were to be at the employer's expense. I moved my belongings to the carpenter's shop well before the month of Rajab. The carpenter was a manly person. He treated me as if I were his son. He was a Shiite from Khorassan, Iran, and his name was Abd-ur- Rida. Taking the advantage of his company, I began to learn Persian. Every afternoon Iranian Shiites would meet at his place and talk on various subjects from politics to economy. Most often than not they would speak ill of their own government and also of the Khalifa in Istanbul. Whenever a stranger came in they would change the subject and begin to talk on personal matters.

 

They trusted me very much. However, as I found out later on, they though I was an Azarbaijani because I spoke Turkish.

 

From time to time a young man would call at our carpenter's shop. His attirement was that of a student doing scientific research, and he understood Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. His name was Muhammad bin Abd-ul-wahhab Najdi. This youngster was an extremely rude and very nervous person. While abusing the Ottoman government very much, he would never speak ill of the Iranian government. The common ground which made him and the shop-owner Abd-ur-Rida so friendly was that both were inimical towards the Khalifa in Istanbul. But how was it possible that this young man, who was a Sunni, understood Persian and was friends with Abd-ur-Rida, who was a Shii? In this city Sunnites pretended to be friendly and even brotherly with Shiites. Most of the city's inhabitants understood both Arabic and Persian. And most people understood Turkish as well.

 

Muhammad of Najd was a Sunni outwardly. Although most Sunnites censured Shiites, in fact, they say that Shiites are disbelievers this man never would revile Shiites. According to Muhammad of Najd, there was no reason for Sunnites to adapt themselves to one of the four Madhhabs; he would say, "Allah's Book does not contain any evidence pertaining to these Madhhabs." He purposefully ignored the ayat al-karimas in this subject and slighted the hadith ash-Sharifs.

 

Concerning the matter of four Madhhabs: A century after the death of their Prophet Muhammad 'alaihis- salam', four scholars came forward from among Sunnite Muslims: Abu Hanifa, Ahmad bin Hanbal, Malik bin Anas, and Muhammad bin Idris Shafi'i. Some Khalifas forced the Sunnites to imitate one of these four scholars. They said no one except these four scholars could do ijtihad in Qur'an al-karim or in the Sunnat. This movement closed the gates of knowledge and understanding to Muslims. This prohibition of ijtihad is considered to have been the reason for Islam's standstill.

 

Shiites exploited these erroneous statements to promulgate their sect. The number of Shiites was smaller than one-tenth that of Sunnites. But now they have increased and become equal with Sunnites in number. This result is natural. For ijtihad is like a weapon. It will improve Islam's fiqh and renovate the understanding of Qur'an al-karim and Sunnat. Prohibition of ijtihad, on the other hand, is like a rotten weapon. It will confine the Madhhab within a certain framework. And this, in its turn, means to close the gates of inference and to disregard the time's requirements. If your weapon is rotten and your enemy is perfect, you are doomed to be beaten by your enemy sooner or later. I think, the clever ones of the Sunnites will reopen the gate of ijtihad in future. If they do not do this, they will become the minority and the Shiites will receive a majority in a few centuries.

 

[However, the imams (leaders) of the four Madhhabs hold the same creed, the same belief. There is no difference among them. Their difference is only in worships. And this, in turn, is a facility for Muslims. The Shiites, on the other hand, parted into twelve sects, thus becoming a rotten weapon. There is detailed information in this respect in the book Milal wa Nihal].

 

The arrogant youngster, Muhammad of Najd, would follow his nafs (his sensuous desires) in understanding the Qur'an and the Sunnat. He would completely ignore the views of scholars, not only those of the scholars of his time and the leaders of the four Madhhabs, but also those of the notable Sahabis such as Abu Bakr and 'Umar. Whenever he came across a Koranic (Qur'an) verse which he thought was contradictory with the views of those people, he would say, "The Prophet said: I have left the Qur'an and the Sunnat for you.' He did not say, I have left the Qur'an, the Sunnat, the Sahaba, and the imams of Madhhabs for you (5).' Therefore, the thing which is fard is to follow the Qur'an and the Sunnat no matter how contrary they may seem to be to the views of the Madhhabs or to the statements of the Sahaba and scholars (6)."

 

During a dinner conversation at Abd-ur-Rida's place, the following dispute took place between Muhammad of Najd and a guest from Kum, a Shiite scholar named Shaikh Jawad:

 

Shaikh Jawad. Since you accept that 'Ali was a mujtahid, why don't you follow him like Shiites?

 

Muhammad of Najd Ali is no different from 'Umar or other Sahabis. His statements cannot be of a documentary capacity. Only the Qur'an and the Sunnat are authentic documents. [The fact is that statements made by any of the Ashab-i kiram are of a documentary capacity. Our Prophet commanded us to follow any one of them (7)].

 

Shaikh Jawad Since our Prophet said, "I am the city of knowledge, and 'Ali is its gate," shouldn't there be difference between 'Ali and the other Sahaba?

 

Muhammad of Najd, If 'Ali's statements were of a documentary capacity, would not the Prophet have said, "I have left you the Qur'an, the Sunnat, and 'Ali"?

 

Shaikh Jawad Yes, we can assume that he (the Prophet) said so. For the stated in a hadith ash-Sharif, "I leave (behind me) Allah's Book and my Ahl al-bayt." And 'Ali, in his turn, is the greatest member of the Ahl al-bayt.

 

Muhammad of Najd denied that the Prophet had said so.

 

Shaikh Jawad confuted Muhammad of Najd with convincing proofs.

 

However, Muhammad of Najd objected to this and said, "You assert that the Prophet said, I leave you Allah's Book and my Ahl al-bayt." Then, what has become of the Prophet's Sunnat?"

 

Shaikh Jawad. The Sunnat of the Messenger of Allah is the explanation of the Qur'an. The Messenger of Allah said, "I leave (you) Allah's Book and my Ahl al-bayt." The phrase 'Allah's Book' includes the 'Sunnat', which is an explanation of the former.

 

Muhammad of Najd. Inasmuch as the statements of the Ahl al-bayt are the explanations of the Qur'an, why should it be necessary to explain it by hadiths?

 

Shaikh Jawad When hadrat Prophet passed away, his Ummat (Muslims) considered that there should be an explanation of the Qur'an which would satisfy the time's requirements. It was for this reason that hadrat Prophet commanded his Ummat to follow the Qur'an, which is the original, and his Ahl al-bayt, who were to explain the Qur'an in a manner to satisfy the time's requirements.

 

I liked this dispute very much. Muhammad of Najd was motionless in front of Shaikh Jawad, like a house-sparrow in the hands of a hunter.

 

Muhammad of Najd was the sort I had been looking for. For his scorn for the time's scholars, his slighting even the (earliest) four Khalifas, his having an independent view in understanding the Qur'an and the Sunnat were his most vulnerable points to hunt and obtain him. So different this conceited youngster was from that Ahmad Effendi who had taught me in Istanbul! That scholar, like his predecessors, was reminiscent of a mountain. No power would be able to move him. Whenever he mentioned the name of Abu Hanifa, he would stand up, go and make ablution. Whenever he meant to hold the book of Hadith named Bukhari, he would, again, make ablution. The Sunnis trust this book very much.

 

Muhammad of Najd, on the other hand, disdained Abu Hanifa very much. He would say, "I know better than Abu Hanifa did (8)." In addition, according to him, half of the book of Bukhari was wrong (9).

 

[As I was translating these confessions of Hempher's into Turkish (10), I remembered the following event: I was a teacher in a high school. During a lesson one of my students asked, "Sir, if a Muslim is killed in a war, will he become a martyr?" "Yes, he will," I said. "Did the Prophet say so?" "Yes, he did." "Will he become a martyr if he is drowned in sea, too?" "Yes," was my answer. "And in this case he will attain more thawab." Then he asked, "Will he become a martyr if he falls down from an aeroplane?" "Yes, he will," I said. "Did our Prophet state these, too?" "Yes, he did." Upon this, he smiled in a triumphant air and said, "Sir! Were there aeroplanes in those days?" My answer to him was as follows: "My son! Our Prophet has ninety-nine names. Each of his names stands for a beautiful attribute he was endowed with. One of his names is Jami'ul-kalim. He would state many facts in one word. For example, he said, 'He who falls from a height will become a martyr.' " The child admitted this answer of mine with admiration and gratitude. By the same token, Qur'an al-karim and hadith ash-Sharifs contain many words, rules, commandments and prohibitions each of which denotes various other meanings. The scientific work carried on to explore these meanings and to apply the right ones to the right cases, is called Ijtihad. Performing ijtihad requires having profound knowledge. For this reason, the Sunnis prohibited ignorant people from doing ijtihad. This does not mean to prohibit ijtihad. After the fourth century of the Hegiral Era, no scholars were educated so highly as to reach the grade of an absolute mujtahid [scholar profoundly learned (enough to perform ijtihad)]; therefore, no one performed ijtihad, which in turn naturally meant the closure of the gates of ijtihad. Towards the end of the world, Isa (Jesus) 'alaihis-salam' shall descend from heaven and Mahdi (the expected Islamic hero) shall appear; these people shall perform ijtihad.

 

Our Prophet 'sall-allahu alaihi wa sallam' stated, "After me Muslims shall part into seventy-three groups. Only one of these groups shall enter Paradise." When he was asked who were to be in that group, he answered, "Those who adapt themselves to me and my Ashab." In another hadith ash-Sharif he stated, "My Ashab are like celestial stars. You will attain hidayat if you follow any one of them!" In other words, he said, "You will attain the way leading to Paradise." A Jew of Yaman, Abdullah bin Saba, by name, instigated hostility against the Ashab among Muslims. Those ignorant people who believed this Jew and bore enmity against the Ashab were called Shii (Shiite). And people who obeyed the hadith-Sharifs, loved and followed the Ashab al-kiram were called Sunni (Sunnite).]

 

I established a very intimate friendship with Muhammad bin Abd-ul-wahhab of Najd. I launched a campaign of praising him everywhere. One day I said to him: "You are greater than 'Umar and 'Ali. If the Prophet were alive now, he would appoint you as his Khalifa instead of them. I expect that Islam will be renovated and improved in your hands. You are the only scholar who will spread Islam all over the world."

 

Muhammad the son of Abd-ul-wahhab and I decided to make a new interpretation of the Qur'an; this new interpretation was to reflect only our points of view and would be entirely contrary to those explanations made by the Sahaba, by the imams of Madhhabs and by the mufassirs (deeply learned scholars specialized in the explanation of the Qur'an). We were reading the Qur'an and talking on some of the ayats. My purpose in doing this was to mislead Muhammad. After all, he was trying to present himself as a revolutionist and would therefore accept my views and ideas with pleasure so that I should trust him all the more.

 

On one occasion I said to him, "Jihad (fighting, struggling for Islam) is not fard."

 

He protested, "Why shouldn't it be despite Allah's commandment, 'Make war against unbelievers (11).'?"

 

I said, "Then why didn't the Prophet make war against the munafiqs despite Allah's commandment, 'Make Jihad against unbelievers and munafiqs. (12)'?" [On the other hand, it is written in Mawahibu ladunniyya that twenty- seven Jihads were performed against unbelievers. Their swords are exhibited in Istanbul's museums. Munafiqs would pretend to be Muslims. They would perform namaz with the Messenger of Allah in the Masjid an-Nabawi during the days. Rasulullah 'sall-allahu alaihi wasallam' knew them. Yet he did not say, " You are a munafiq," to any of them. If he had made war against them and killed them, people would say, "Muhammad 'alaihis- salam' killed people who believed in him." Therefore he made verbal Jihad against them. For Jihad, which is fard, is performed with one's body and/or with one's property and/or with one's speech. The ayat al-karima quoted above commands to perform Jihad against unbelievers. It does not define the type of the Jihad to be performed. For Jihad against unbelievers must be performed by fighting, and Jihad against munafiqs is to be performed by preaching and advice. This ayat al-karima covers these types of Jihad].

 

He said, "The Prophet made Jihad against them with his speech."

 

I said, "Is the Jihad which is fard (commanded), the one which is to be done with one's speech?"

 

He said, "Rasulullah made war against the unbelievers."

 

I said, "The Prophet made war against the unbelievers in order to defend himself. For the unbelievers intended to kill him."

 

He nodded.

 

At another time I said to him, "Mut'a nikah (13) is permissible."

 

He objected, "No, it is not."

 

I said, "Allah declares, In return for the use you make of them, give them the mahr you have decided upon'." (14)

 

He said, "'Umar prohibited two examples of mut'a practice existent in his time and said he would punish anyone who practiced it."

 

I said, "You both say that you are superior to 'Umar and follow him. In addition, 'Umar said he prohibited it though he knew that the Prophet had permitted it (15). Why do you leave aside the Prophet's word and obey 'Umar's word?"

 

He did not answer. I knew that he was convinced. I sensed that Muhammad of Najd desired a woman at that moment; he was single. I said to him, "Come on, let us each get a woman by mut'a nikah. We will have a good time with them. He accepted with a nod. This was a great opportunity for me, so I promised to find a woman for him to amuse himself. My aim was to ally the timidity he had about people. But he stated it a condition that the matter be kept as a secret between us and that the woman not even be told what his name was. I hurriedly went to the Christian women who had been sent forth by the Ministry of Colonies with the task of seducing the Muslim youth there. I explained the matter to one of them. She accepted to help, so I gave her the nickname Safiyya. I took Muhammad of Najd to her house. Safiyya was at home, alone. We made a one-week marriage contract for Muhammad of Najd, who gave the woman some gold in the name of "Mahr." Thus we began to mislead Muhammad of Najd, Safiyya from within, and I from without.

 

Muhammad of Najd was thoroughly in Safiyya's hands now. Besides, he had tasted the pleasure of disobeying the commandments of the Shariat under the pretext of freedom of ijtihad and ideas.

 

The third day of the mut'a nikah I had a long dispute with him over that hard drinks were not haram (forbidden by Islam). Although he quoted many ayats and hadiths showing that it was haram to have hard drinks, I cancelled all of them and finally said, "It is a fact that Yazid and the Umayyad and Abbasid Khalifas had hard drinks. Were they all miscreant people and you are the only adherent of the right way? They doubtless knew the Qur'an and the Sunnat better than you do. They inferred from the Qur'an and the Sunnat that the hard drink is makruh, not haram. Also, it is written in Jewish and Christian books that alcohol is mubah (permitted). All religions are Allah's commandments. In fact, according to a narrative, 'Umar had hard drinks until the revelation of the ayat, 'You have all given it up, haven't you (16)?" If it had been haram, the Prophet would have chastised him. Since the Prophet did not punish him, hard drink is halal." [The fact is that 'Umar 'radi-allahu anh' used to take hard drinks before they were made haram. He never drank after the prohibition was declared. If some of the Umayyad and Abbasid Khalifas took alcoholic drinks, this would not show that drinks with alcohol are makruh. It would show that they were sinners, that they committed haram. For the ayat al-karima quoted by the spy, as well as other ayat al-karimas and hadith ash-Sharifs, shows that drinks with alcohol are haram. It is stated in Riyad-un-nasihin, "Formerly it was permissible to drink wine. Hadrat 'Umar, Sad ibni Waqqas, and some other Sahabis used to drink wine. Later the two hundred and nineteenth ayat of Baqara sura was revealed to declare that it was a grave sin. Sometime later the forty-second ayat of Nisa sura was revealed and it was declared, 'Do not approach the namaz when you are drunk!'" Eventually, the ninety-third ayat of Maida sura came and wine was made haram. It was stated as follows in hadith-i- Sharifs: "If something would intoxicate in case it were taken in a large amount, it is haram to take it even in a small amount." and "Wine is the gravest of sins." and "Do not make friends with a person who drinks wine! Do not attend his funeral (when he dies)! Do not form a matrimonial relationship with him!" and "Drinking wine is like worshipping idols." and "May Allahu ta'ala curse him who drinks wine, sells it, makes it, or gives it."]

 

Muhammad of Najd said, "According to some narratives, 'Umar drank alcoholic spirits after mixing it with water and said it was not haram unless it had an intoxicating effect. 'Umar's view is correct, for it is declared in the Qur'an, 'The devil wants to stir up enmity and grudge among you and to keep you from doing dhikr of Allah and from namaz by means of drinks and gambling. You will give these up now, won't you (17)?' Alcoholic spirits will not cause the sins defined in the ayat when it does not intoxicate. Therefore, hard drinks are not haram when they don't have an intoxicating effect (18)."

 

I told Safiyya about this dispute we had on drinks and instructed her to make him drink a very strong spirit. Afterwards, she said, "I did as you said and made him drink. He danced and united with me several times that night." From them on Safiyya and I completely took control of Muhammad of Najd. In our farewell talk the Minister of Colonies had said to me, "We captured Spain from the disbelievers [he means Muslims] by means of alcohol and fornication. Let us take all our lands back by using these two great forces again." Now I know how true a statement it was.

 

One day I broached the topic of fasting to Muhammad of Najd: "It is stated in the Qur'an, 'Your fasting is more auspicious for you (19).' It is not stated that fasting is fard (a plain commandment). Then, fasting is sunnat, not fard, in the Islamic religion." He protested and said, "Are you trying to lead me out of my faith?" I replied, "One's faith consists of the purity of one's heart, the salvation of one's soul, and not committing a transgression against others' rights. Did not the Prophet state, 'Faith is love'? Did not Allah declare in Qur'an al-karim, 'Worship thine Rab (Allah) until yaqin (20) comes to thee (21)'? Then, when one has attained yaqin pertaining to Allah and the Day of Judgement and beautified one's heart and purified one's deeds, one will become the most virtuous of mankind." He shook his head in reply to these words of mine.

 

Once I said to him, "Namaz is not fard." "How is it not fard?" "Allah declares in the Qur'an, 'Perform namaz to remember Me (22).' Then, the aim of namaz is to remember Allah. Therefore, you might as well remember Allah without performing namaz."

 

He said, "Yes. I have heard that some people do dhikr of Allah instead of performing namaz (23).' I was very much pleased with this statement of his. I tried hard to develop this notion and capture his heart. Then I noticed that he did not attach much importance to namaz and was performing it quite sporadically. He was very negligent especially with the morning prayer. For I would keep him from going to bed by talking with him until midnight. So he would be too exhausted to get up for morning prayer.

 

I began to pull down the shawl of belief slowly off the shoulders of Muhammad of Najd. One day I wanted to dispute with him about the Prophet, too. "From now on, if you talk with me on these topics, our relation will be spoilt and I shall put an end to my friendship with you." Upon this I gave up speaking about the Prophet for fear of ruining all my endeavors once and for all.

 

I advised him to pursue a course quite different from those of Sunnites and Shiites. He favored this idea of mine. For he was a conceited person. Thanks to Safiyya, I put an halter on him.

 

On one occasion I said, "I have heard that the Prophet made his Ashab brothers to one another. Is it true?" Upon his positive reply, I wanted to know if this Islamic rule was temporary or permanent. He explained, "It is permanent. For the Prophet Muhammad's halal is halal till the end of the world, and his haram is haram till the end of the world." Then I offered him to be my brother. So we were brothers.

 

From that day on I never left him alone. We were together even in his travels. He was very important for me. For the tree that I had planted and grown, spending the most valuable days of my youth, was now beginning to yield its fruit.

 

I was sending monthly reports to the Ministry of Colonies in London. The answers I received were very encouraging and reassuring. Muhammad of Najd was following the path I had drawn for him.

 

My duty was to imbue him with feelings of independence, freedom and skepticism. I always praised him, saying that a brilliant future was awaiting him.

 

One day I fabricated the following dream: "Last night I dreamed of our Prophet. I addressed him with the attributes I had learnt from hodjas. He was seated on a dais. Around him were scholars that I did not know. You entered. Your face was as bright as haloes. You walked towards the Prophet, and when you were close enough the Prophet stood up and kissed between your both eyes. He said, 'You are my namesake, the heir to my knowledge, my deputy in worldly and religious matters.' You said, 'O Messenger of Allah! I am afraid to explain my knowledge to people.' 'You are the greatest. Don't be afraid,' replied the Prophet."

 

Muhammad bin Abd-ul-Wahhab was wild with joy when he heard the dream. He asked several times if what I had told him was true, and received a positive answer each time he asked. Finally he was sure I had told him the truth. I think, from then on, he was resolved to publicize the ideas I had imbued him with and to establish a new sect (24). bersambung.....

 

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