Then I Was Guided

Muhammad al Tijani Samawi (m)


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.

Muhammad al Tijani al Samawi


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

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.

A Brief Look at My Life

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

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.

The Pilgrimage to the House of Allah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

In Egypt

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 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.

A Meeting on board the Ship

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

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

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

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

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

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

My first visit to Iraq

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

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.

Abdul Qadir al Jilani and Musa al Kazim

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

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

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

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.

Scepticism and Questioning

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.

The Visit to al Najaf

One night my friend told me that we were going on the next day, if Allah willed, to al-Najaf. I
asked him, "What is al-Najaf?" He said,"lt is a centre for learning, also the grave of Ali ibn Abi
Talib is in that city."

I was surprised that there was a known grave for Imam Ali, for all our Shaykhs say that there is no
known grave for our master Ali. We took a bus to al-Kufa and there we stopped to visit al-Kufa
Mosque, which is one of the most celebrated Islamic monuments. My friend showed me all the
historical places and took me to the mosque of Muslim ibn Aqeel and Hani ibn Urwa and told me
briefly how they were martyred. He took me to the Mihrab where Imam Ali was martyred, then
we visited the house where the Imam lived with his two sons, our masters al-Hasan and al-Husayn,
and in the house there was a well from which they drank and did their ablution.

I lived some spiritual moments during which I forgot the world and imagined the asceticism and the
modesty of the Imam, despite the fact that he was Commander of the Believers and fourth of the
Rightly Guided Caliphs.

I must not forget to mention the hospitality and the modesty of the people of al-Kufa, since
whenever we passed a group of people they stood up and greeted us, as if my friend knew most
of them. One of those we met was the director of the Institute of al-Kufa, who invited us to his
house where we met his children and spent a happy night. I had the feeling that I was amongst my
family and my clan, and when they talked about the Sunnis they always said, "Our brothers from
the Sunna", so I liked their talks and asked them a few questions to test their sincerity.

We continued our journey to al-Najaf, some ten kilometers from al-Kufa, and when we got there I
remembered al-Kazimiyyah mosque in Baghdad, for there were golden minarets surrounding a
dome made of pure gold. We entered into the Imam's mausoleum after having read a special
reading for permission to enter the place, which is customary amongst the Shia visitors. Inside the
mausoleum I saw more surprising things than that in the mosque of Musa al-Kazim, and as usual, I
stood and read al-Fatiha, doubting whether the grave actually contained the body of Imam Ali.
The simplicity of that house in al-Kufa which was occupied by the Imam had impressed me very
much to the extent that I thought, "God forbid, Imam Ali would not accept all this gold and silver
decoration, when there are many Muslims dying of hunger all over the world." Especially when I
saw many poor people Iying on the streets asking for alms. Then I said to myself, "O Shia, you are
wrong, at least you should admit this mistake, for Imam Ali was sent by the Messenger of Allah to
demolish the graves, so what are all these gold and silver graves, if this is not polytheism then it
must be at least an error that Islam does not allow."

My friend asked me as he handed me a piece of dry clay. if I wanted to pray. I answered him
sharply, "We do not pray around the graves." He then said, "Wait for me until I do my prayers."
While I was waiting for him I read the plaque which hung on the grave, I also looked inside it
through the engraved gold and silver bars and saw many coins and notes of different
denominations thrown by the visitors as contributions to the charitable works which are attached to
the mausoleum. Because of the vast quantity of money, I thought it might have been left there for
months, but my friend told me that the authorities responsible for cleaning the place collect the
money every night after the evening prayer.

I went out after my friend, astonished by what I had just seen, and wished that they would give me
some of that money, or perhaps distribute it among the many poor people. I looked around the
place, which was surrounded by a great wall, and saw many groups praying here and there, others
were listening to speakers standing on platforms, some of them sounded as if they were wailing. I
saw a group of people crying and beating their chests, and I wanted to ask my friend why should
these people behave in such a way, but a funeral procession passed by us and I noticed some men
removing a marble flag from the middle of the great courtyard to lower the body there. Therefore I
thought that these people were crying for their lost one.

A Meeting with the Al Ulama
(The Learned Men)

My friend took me to a mosque next to the mausoleum, where the floors were covered by carpets,
and around its Mihrab there were some Qur'anic verses, engraved in beautiful calligraphy. I
noticed a few turbaned youngsters sitting near the Mihrab studying, and each one of them had a
book in his hand.

I was impressed by the scene, since I had never seen Shaykhs aged between thirteen and sixteen,
and what made them look so cute was their costumes. My friend asked them about the Master
"al-Sayyid", so they told him that he was leading the prayer. I did not know what he meant by "al-
Sayyid", and thought he might be one of the Ulama, but later I realized it was "al-Sayyid al-Khu'i"
the leader of the Shiite community.

It was worth noting here that the title "Sayyid" - master for the Shia is given to those who are the
descendants of the family of the Prophet (saw), and the "Sayyid", whether he is a student or an
Alim [learned man], wears a black turban, but other Ulama usually wear white turbans and bear
the title of "Shaykh". There are other notables [al-Ashraf] who are not Ulama and wear a green

My friend asked them if I could sit with them, whilst he went to meet al-Sayyid. They welcomed
me and sat around me in a semi-circle and I looked at their faces which were full of innocence and
purity, and then I remembered the saying of the Prophet (saw) "Man is born to live by nature, so
his parents could make him a Jew or a Christian or a Magus" ... and I said to myself, "Or make
him a Shi'i."

They asked me, which countly I came from, I answered. "From Tunisia." They asked, "Have you
got religious schools?" I answered, "We have universities and schools." I was bombarded by
questions from all sides, and all the questions were sharp and concentrated. What could I say to
those innocent boys who thought that the Islamic world was full of religious schools where they
teach Jurisprudence, Islamic Law, principle of Islam and Qur'anic commentary. They did not know
that in the modern world of Islam we have changed the Qur'anic schools to kindergartens
supervised by Christ- ian nuns so should I tell them that they are considered by us as being
"backward"? One of the boys asked me, "Which Madhhab (religious school) is followed in
Tunis'?" I said, "The Maliki madhhab." And noticed that some of them laughed, but I did not pay
much attention. He asked me, "Do you not know the Jafari Madhhab?" I said, "What is this new
name? No we only know the four Madhahibs, and apart from that is not within Islam."

He smiled and said, "The Jafari Madhhab is the essence of Islam, do you not know that Imam Abu
Hanifah studied under Imam Jafar al-Sadiq? And that Abu Hanifah said, "Without the two years
al-Numan would have perished." I remained silent and did not answer, for I had heard a name that
I had never heard before, but thanked Allah that he - i.e. their Imam Jafar al-Sadiq - was not a
teacher of Imam Malik, and said that we are Malikis and not Hanafis. He said, "The four
Madhahibs took from each other, Ahmed ibn Hanbal took from al-Shafii, and al-Shafii took from
Malik, and Malik took from Abu Hanifah, and Abu Hanifah from Jafar al-Sadiq, therefore, all of
them were students of Jafar ibn Muhammad, who was the first to open an Islamic University in the
mosque of his grandfather, the Messenger of Allah. and under him studied no less than four
thousand jurisprudents and specialists in Hadith (prophetic traditions).

I was surprised by the intelligence of that young boy who seemed to have learnt what he was
saying in the same way that one recites a Surah from the Qur'an. I was even more astonished when
he started telling me some historical references which he knew the number of their volumes and
chapters, and he continued with his discussion as if he was a teacher teaching a student. In fact I
felt weak before him and wished that I had gone with my friend instead of staying with the young
boys. I was not able to answer every question connected with jurisprudence or history that they
asked me.

He asked me, "Which of the Imams I followed?" I said, "Imam Malik." He said, "How do you
follow a dead man with fourteen centuries between you and him. If you want to ask him a question
about current issues, would he answer you?" I thought for a little while and then said, "Your Jafar
also died fourteen centuries ago, so whom do you follow?" He and other boys answered me
quickly, "We follow al- Sayyid al-Khu'i, for he is our Imam." I did not know who was more
knowledgeable, al-Khu'i or Jafar al-Sadiq. I tried my best to change the subject so I kept asking
them questions such as, "What is the population of al- Najaf? How far is al- Najaf from Baghdad?
Did they know other countries beside Iraq ..." And every time they answered, I prepared another
question for them to prevent them from asking me, for I felt incapable of matching their knowledge.
But I refused to admit it, despite the fact that inside myself, I accepted defeat. The days of glory
and scholarship in Egypt had dissipated here, especially after meeting those youngsters, and then I
remembered the following wise words:

Say to him who claims knowledge in Philosophy, "You have known one thing but you are still
unaware of many things."

I thought the minds of those young boys were greater than the minds of those Shaykhs whom I met
in al-Azhar and the minds of our Shaykhs in Tunisia.

Al-Sayyid al-Khu'i entered the place, and with him came a group of Ulama who looked
respectable and dignified, and all the boys stood up, and me with them, then each one of them
approached al-Sayyid to kiss his hand, but I stayed rigid in my place. Al-Sayyid did not sit down
until everybody sat down, then he started greeting them one by one, and he was greeted back by
each individual until my turn came, so I replied in the same way. After that my friend, who had
whispered to al-Sayyid, pointed to me to get nearer to al-Sayyid, which I did, and he sat me to his
right. After we exchanged the greetings my friend said to me, "Tell al-Sayyid the things you hear in
Tunisia about the Shia." I said, "Brother, let us forget about the stories we hear from here and
there, and I want to know for myself what the Shia say, so I want frank answers to some questions
that I have." My friend insisted that I should inform al-Sayyid about what we thought of al- Shia. I
said, "We consider the Shia to be harder on Islam than the Christian and Jews, because they
worship Allah and believe in the Message of Musa-may Allah grant him peace, but we hear that
the Shia worship Ali and consider him to be sacred, and there is a sect among them who worship
Allah but put Ali at the same level as the Messenger of Allah." Also I told him the story about how
the angel Gabriel betrayed his charge - as they say - so instead of giving the message to Ali he
gave it to Muhammad (saw).

Al-Sayyid remained silent for a little while, with his head down, then he looked at me and said,
"We believe that there is no other God but Allah, and that Muhammad (saw) is the Messenger of
Allah, and that Ali was but a servant of Allah." 'He turned to his audience and said, indicating to
me "Look at these innocent people how they have been brain-washed by the false rumours; and
this is not surprising for I heard more than that from other people - (so we say) there is no power
or strength save in Allah, the Highest and the Greatest." Then he turned to me and said, "Have you
read the Qur'an?" I answered, "I could recite half of it by heart before I was ten." He said, "Do
you know that all the Islamic groups, regardless of their sects agree on the Holy Qur'an, for our
Qur'an is the same as yours?" I said, "Yes I know that." He then said, "Have you not read the
words of Allah, praise be to Him the Sublime:

And Muhammad is no more than a messenger, the messengers have already passed
away before him (Holy Qur'an 3:144)

Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those with him are from of heart against
the unbelievers (Holy Qur'an 48:29)

Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and
the last of the Prophets (Holy Qur'an 33:40)

I said, "Yes I know all these Qur'anic verses." He said, "Where is Ali then? If our Qur'an says that
Muhammad (saw) is the Messenger of Allah, so where did this lie come from?"

I remained silent and could not find an answer. He added, "As for the betrayal of Gabriel, God
forbid, it is worse than the first, because when Allah sent Gabriel unto Muhammad (saw),
Muhammad (saw) was forty years old then, and Ali was a lad of six or seven years, so how could
Gabriel make a mistake and did not differentiate between Muhammad (saw) the man and Ali the
lad?" He stayed silent for a long time, and I started thinking about what he had said, which
appeared to me as logical reasoning, so that it left a deep impression on me, and I asked myself
why we did not base our analysis on such logical reasoning.

Al-Sayyid al-Khu'i added, "I would like to inform you that the Shia is the only group, among all the
Islamic groups, which believe in the infallability of the Prophets and Imams; so if our Imams, may
Allah grant them peace, are infallible, and they are human beings like us, then how about Gabriel,
who is an angel favoured by Allah and He called him "The faithful spirit".

I asked, "Where did all these rumours come from?" He said, "From the enemies of Islam who
want to divide the Muslims into groups that fight each other, otherwise Muslims are brothers,
whether they were Shia or Sunnis, for all of them worship Allah alone and do not associate any
other God with Him, and they have one Qur'an, one Prophet and one Qiblah (Direction to which
Muslims turn in praying- i.e. Kabaa). The Shia and the Sunnis only differ on issues regarding
jurisprudence, in the same way that the different schools of jurisprudence in the Sunni school differ
among each other; as Malik did not agree all the way with Abu Hanifah who himself did not agree
all the way with al-Shafii ... and so on."

I said, "Therefore, all the things which have been said about you are just lies?" He said, "You,
praise be to Allah, are a sensible man and could comprehend things, also you have seen Shi'i
countries and have travelled in their midst; so did you hear or see anything related to these lies?" I
said, "No, I have not seen or heard anything but good things, and I thank Allah for giving me the
opportunity to meet Mr. Munim on the ship, since he was the reason for my presence in Iraq, and
indeed I have learnt many things that I had not known before."

My friend Munim said, with a smile, "Including the existence of a grave for the Imam Ali?" I
winked at him and said, "In fact I have learnt many new things even from those young lads and
wish I had had the opportunity to learn as they do in this Religious School."

Al-Sayyid said, "Welcome, if you want to study here, then there will be a place for you in this
school." Everybody welcomed the suggestion, especially my friend Munim whose face was full of

I said, "I am a married man with two boys." He said, "We will take care of your accommodation
and living and whatever you need, but the important thing is learning."

I thought for a little while and said to myself, "It does not seem acceptable to become a student
after having spent five years as a teacher and educationalist, and it is not easy to take a decision so

I thanked al-Sayyid al-Khu'i for his offer and told him that I would think about the matter seriously
after I came back from al-Umrah, but I needed some books. Al-Sayyid said, "Give him the
books." A group of learned people stood up and went to their book cabinets and after a few
minutes each one of them presented me with a book, so I had more than seventy. I realized that I
could not carry all these books with me, especially as I was going to Saudi Arabia, where the
authorities censor any book entering their countries, lest new ideas get established, in particular
those ideas which do not agree with their creed. However, I did not want to miss the chance of
having all these books which I had never seen in all my life. I said to my friend and the rest of the
people that I had a long journey ahead of me, passing through Damascus, Jordan and Saudi
Arabia, and on the way back my journey would be even longer for I would travel through Egypt
and Lybia until I reached Tunisia, and beside the weight of these books was the fact that most of
the countries prohibit the entry of these books to their territories.

Al-Sayyid said, "Leave us your address and we will send them to you." I liked the idea and gave
him my personal card with my address in Tunis on it. Also, I thanked him for his generosity, and
when I was about to leave him he stood up and said to me, "May Allah grant you safety and if you
stand by the grave of my forefather the Messenger of Allah please pass my greetings to him."

Everybody, including myself, were moved by what al- Sayyid had said, and I noticed that tears
were coming from his eyes, then I said to myself, "God forbid that such a man could be wrong or a
liar; his dignity, his greatness and his modesty tell you that he is truly a descendant of the Prophet."
I could not help myself but to take his hand and kiss it, in spite of his refusal.

When I stood up to go, everybody stood and said farewell to me, and some of the young lads
from the religious school followed me and asked me for my addresses for future correspondence,
and I gave it to them.

We went back to al-Kufa after an invitation from a friend of Munim, whose name was Abu
Shubbar, and stayed in his house where we spent a whole night socializing with a group of
intellectual young people. Among those people were some students of al-Sayyid Muhammad
Baqir al-Sadr who suggested that I should meet him, and they promised to arrange an interview
with him on the day after. My friend Munim liked the idea but apologized for not being able to be
present at the meeting because he has a prior engagement in Baghdad. We agreed that I would
stay in Abu Shubbar's house for three or four days until Munim came back.

Munim left us shortly after the dawn prayers and we went to sleep. I benefitted so much from
these students and was surprised about the variety of subjects they study in the Religious School.
In addition to the Islamic studies which include Jurisprudence, Islamic Law (Shariah) and Tawheed
(Islamic Theology); they study Economics, Sociology, Politics, History, Languages, Astronomy
and a few more subjects.