I surveyed the Gates of Paradise, and found crowds at all of them; except the Gate of Humility. Hence, I entered through that gate. Sayyid Ahmad Ar-Rifa'i
Words are difficult to summon upon hearing of the death of our dear, beloved teacher Shaykh Mustafa at-Turkmani, May Allah envelop him in His Mercy. Our Shaykh possessed a combination of virtues that were difficult to find in contemporary scholars, and with his passing finding anyone who possesses those virtues will be all the more challenging.
He was a jurist of distinction, being one of the most distinguished students of the great Damascene jurist Shaykh Hasan Habannakah. He was a memorizer of the Qur'an, being one of the elect students of the great Syrian master of recitation, Shaykh Husein al-Khattab; during his youth being called upon to lead the Tarawih prayers for a group of scholars who would gather during Ramadan in the house of Shaykh Mekki al-Kattani. He was a Sufi in the true sense of the word, being one of the honored students of Shaykh Muhammad al-Hashimi, and later the great Rifa'i master, Abdul Hakim Abdul-Basit. He was a master of the Arabic language, and memorized much of the literary and mystical poetry of the Arabs.
He was also a Da'i, an Islamic worker, who tirelessly served the people of southern Damascus. He served as a moving sermonizer at Jami' Rida, in the Zahira Jadida section of the city. Before being slowed by his illness, he moved tirelessly between the mosques and homes of Midan, Zahira Qadima, Zahira Jadida, Mukhayyam Filastine, and Mukhayyam Yarmuk, the latter two areas being large Palestinian refugee camps, delivering classes and inspiring lectures, blessing newborn babies, conducting marriages, and consoling families who had lost loved ones. He was truly a man of the people.
Because the Shaykh was an Islamic worker who was in touch with the common folk, he always advised me to return to America to work for Islam. He shared with me the mystical vision of the great Rifa'i scholar, Sayyid Muhammad Mehdi ar-Rawas, who related the following over 200 years ago:
The stupefying illumination of that scene, whose light was revealed to me, and whose veils were drawn back for me, showed me that Allah would bring forth from depths of the unseen, from the overflowing unseen realities involved in that Muhammadaic state, men from whom the blinding luminosity of that [Muhammadaic] state would be removed from their hearts. Thereafter, springs of wisdom will burst forth from their hearts and will flow from the tongues of those men in unperceivable ways. Among them will be those who were the worst of disbelievers yesterday, transformed today into the purest of believers. Allah will surely complete His light.It is as if I see this being realized and divine forces are moving forth; unseen secrets are being manifested; tongues are speaking [with unprecedented wisdom]; the mystical secrets proving true; the suns conveying the light of divine aid are burning brightly; the fragrances of prophetic acceptance are diffusing all around. [At that time] a large number of Christians in Western lands, when they are at the peak of their strength and power –a spirit from the proof of the Muhammadaic, prophetic succor will be sent over them- Allah will guide the stray among them, and He will rectify their situation. They will be guided to faith in the pure oneness of God and the message of His Noble, Chosen Prophet, peace upon him. Their numbers will grow.This is a sign of Allah that He has concealed in the depths of the unseen as a gift to the trustworthy prophet, as a source of aid to the religion, and as a manifestation of divine care for the Muslims. I continued to see that divine aid extending itself outward, and the fresh water of that sea quenching the thirst of all attaining to it, extending its springs and rivulets to the people. Thus does your Lord say, "[Bringing about such things] is easy for me." A sprinkle from the clouds of His generosity irrigates whole lands. A glance from the eye of His care transforms a bitter enemy of God into a saint. Allah guides with His light whomsoever He pleases.In this regard, Shaykh Mustafa's advice ran counter to that given by many of the scholars of Damascus, who would frequently argue for migration from the un-Islamic lands of the West. He would not only advice us to return, he would also pray for our success.
The above-mentioned combination of gifts is rare in today's world, and by possessing them Shaykh Mustafa was in an elect class of scholars. In addition to these qualities, our Shaykh also possessed the very highest standard of Islamic etiquette. I was blessed to keep the company of the Shaykh for the better part of five years, studying a wide array of classical Islamic texts with him, and trying my best to attend as many of his public lessons, and private gatherings as I could manage. During that time and in various situations, the Shaykh never once raised his voice. He never spoke ill of anyone. I never saw him argue or dispute with anyone. When confronted with an opinion on an issue related to the Divine Law that differed from his own, he would merely nod his head to express his disagreement, not seeking to exalt his own opinion.
Having mentioned all of these virtues possessed by Shaykh Mustafa, I can confidently say, they were all surpassed by his deep humility. I feel anyone who knew the Shaykh would agree. I will relate some personal experiences I had with the Shaykh to illustrate this point.
Upon our arrival in Damascus, Shaykh Mustafa agreed to teach a group of Western students the very basics of tajwid and jurisprudence. We were all neophytes and he patiently endured our ignorance, our bad manners with him, and the terrible overcooked tea we would offer him. He would walk to my house after Fajr to deliver these lessons, oftentimes on cold, damp winter mornings.
At the private gatherings he would host at his family's rural property, situated in the hills outside of Damascus, he would directly participate in preparing the food, serving the guests, and cleaning up both before and afterwards. He would not allow anyone to take the broom from his hands. Many are the scholars who will reference the Prophet, peace upon him, participating in digging the ditch before the Battle of the Trench. However, few are those who will take the broom, mop, vacuum cleaner, toilet bowl brush, or a shovel and dig their own ditches. He was one of those few.
During the almost five years of attending the circle of the Shaykh at Jami' Ghazwati Badr, next to his house in Zahira Qadima, Shaykh Mustafa would never sit on the raised platform designated for teaching out of respect for the Imam of the Masjid, the noted elderly scholar, Shaykh Muhammad al-Farrah. Even after the passing of the Imam, Shaykh Mustafa refused to sit on the raised platform.
During the illness of Shaykh Abdr-Rahman ash-Shaghouri, May Allah shower his Mercy upon him, Shaykh Mustafa was called upon to assume the duties that that ailing master was no longer capable of performing. However, he refused to actively do so as long as Shaykh Abdur-Rahman remained alive, out of his respect for the status of the Shaykh. Others of lesser station would have rushed to assume the Shaykh's indispensable, yet weighty duties. However, Shaykh Mustafa was held back by his etiquette with Shaykh Abdur-Rahman and his fear of Allah.
Shaykh Mustafa's humility led to many people in Damascus overlooking his greatness as a scholar. This is especially true because almost twenty of his most productive years were spent in Qatar. However, the scholars knew his rank, and the mention of his name would bring praise and adoration from the likes of Dr. Said Ramadan al-Buti, a classmate during their youth at Shaykh Hasan Habannakah's school, Ma'had at-Tawjih. I have heard one of the learned people of Damascus say, "If you want to see one of the Tabi'een, look at Shaykh Mustafa at-Turkmani."
In recent times, the skies have shaded few Muslims of the stature of our departed Shaykh. Today, like us, the skies are weeping. However, we must soon dry our eyes and get on with the work the Shaykh has bequeathed unto us. To help us in that work, we should seek strength through the following advice I received from the Shaykh one of my last visits to Damascus. When I asked him what advice he could give to help us get through the challenging and even threatening times facing Muslims in the West, he responded, "Frequent recitation of the Qur'an, and abundant Salawat on the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah upon him."
May Allah accept Shaykh Mustafa into the ranks of the righteous, and may his life and example be an inspiration for us all.
Your Brother in Islam,
Imam Zaid Shakir 10/4/06