Ottoman Sufi Shaykh, Shaykh Lokman Efendi’s conversation with an Orthodox priest visiting the Osmanli Dergah.
This is also your home. Whenever you are travelling be comfortable
Priest: You know the Turkish soldiers who took our people, our boys. They really thought that they were doing them a favor bringing them into Islam and giving them nourishment, so I don’t see it as a negative thing.
No it’s not. That’s the thing, because the janissary is not, they didn’t conscript them to become laborer, or to become slaves working with manure, or to be laborers here. Janissary is a Crack elite unite that is only answerable to the Sultan. So understand now if the press that we are given about the Muslims conquerors, the Turkish conquerors, who forcibly took Christian boys from unwilling parents, to come and to serve the rest of their lives next to the Sultan, what a mistake that would be, to put the children of your enemies next to the Sultan where they have living memories of their own faith and of their own parents. It is, as our Sheykh told us, there are so many Muslims parents who would pretend that they are not Muslims to try to have their children get conscripted. Because to be trained as a janissary is to be set for life. It is, maybe akin to WestPoint, or something even higher than that.
Priest: Well as a matter of fact, there were a few of this conscripted boys who became vizier, and second only in power and authority to the Sultan himself.
It would be foolishness.
Priest: It was a meritocracy that worked very well.
That is something that I appreciate coming from Singapore, meritocracy.
Priest: Oh, is that the way it was there?
That is the way that is told to us and by and large, of course other factors also come in play. But we are judged by not your race or your religion, but by how useful you can be, according to your merit, to serve the people in the Empire. And you cannot have a system of meritocracy if it is pure colonialism. It is impossible. It’s impossible. It is easy to conquer. It is very difficult to rule. And it is almost impossible to rule justly for hundreds of years. The easy way out, like we talked about before, is just to change their language, change their religion, or make them to become subjects that forever aspire to be as like the colonial master. But you can never be. So, for the rest of our lives, we will be like trained monkeys. But that is the policy, like what we have said before, that the Ottomans, and I want to say Ottomans as opposed to the Turks, because again, the Turkish idea of Ottomanism, that they say that is the name given to everyone under our realm, be they Christians, Jewish or Muslims, Turkish, Arab or whatever race that you belong to. Although, in fact, one of the reasons why the revolution is happening, Ottoman Turkey for the young Turks, one of their claims is that, because the Ottomans favored the other races and religion more than they do to their own Turkish people. So it became nationalist.
It became Nationalist.
Priest: I know something went wrong in the Ottoman Empire, towards the end. There was a woman named Roxelana.
That was earlier. Roxelana.
Priest : Wasn’t she the consort of Suleiman?
She’s the wife. The only Sultan with the only wife.
Priest : She was from Ukraine, I think
Yes, I know. She accepted the way, she accepted the religion. She became the beloved of the Sultan.
Priest: Was she the mother of Selim?
Yes, she was.
Priest: And he had some problems.
He did work that was given to him, that was necessary for him.
Priest: Suleyman actually was at Mohacs and he defeated Lycos I the young king of Hungary, at Mohacs, 1526. Then it was in 1529, was it Suleyman that laid seige to Vienna?
Yes. I believe.
Priest: And it was a strange thing because the Viennese were able to maintain, they withstood the Turks. They made some cinnamon pastry in the shape of a crescent which they learnt from the Turks. It is the crescent, Is it true?
That is the shape of Islam. That is the crescent moon. And in their hatred, they eat that.
Priest: Yes. In their hatred, you said? Well I never took one to my mouth for the feeling of hatred.
No, because you are not living at that time. And you don’t understand what it means. It’s like if Muslims were to make bread in the shape of a crucifix to celebrate our victory over the Christians, and we have to celebrate it, we have to eat it, and we eat it. Okay. Throughout centuries, maybe they lost the meaning.
Priest: Because you know, in some of our Churches in Russia there’s a cross over the crescent on the top of the cupola, the dome, the onion dome, you know that shape? It sheds snow, I think that’s why they made it like that, because it sheds snow.
Very similar to the Kubba of the Muslims.
Priest: Yes, you have a similar shape too. What do you call it?
Priest: I wonder how many words in Russian came from Turkish.
The Orthodox Jews living in Istanbul, they had the crescent over the star of David, again to, like what we said earlier, certain Orthodox believer saying, and you mentioned that the Russians would rather be ruled under the Turks than to be ruled under Rome.
Priest: Yes, you know who said that? George Scolaros. And he became Patriarch Gennadios.
What is that? Patriarch Gennadios?
Priest: You know there was a Byzantine Emperor who appeal to Rome to raise another Crusade to push the Turks back from the wall of Constantinople.
And what they did there (Sheykh shook his head sadly.)
Priest: and I’m not talking about 1204
Priest: I’m talking about 1430. What happened then was the Pope said, ‘send your bishop to Florence and if your bishops will agree to sign a union,’ because there was a schism between Rome and Constantinople, the two churches were divided . The Pope said, ‘now you must agree to my terms to end the schism and recognize my authority as Christ the vicar on earth.’ So the emperor told the bishops to go to Florence, and to sign this act of union in the year 1439. The bishops did so except for one and that was Mark of Ephesus. Mark of Ephesus refused to sign but all the other bishops signed it and it’s supposed to be the end of the schism. Except that all the Bishops when they return to Constantinople they repudiated their signature on the infamous act of union. But it was still promulgated in the west that the victory for western Christianity over Orthodoxy. Now, there was a man name George Scolaros who was a scholar, he was living in Constantinople. He was very much opposed to act of union with Rome, and he was the one who was recorded to have said, ‘better to see the Turkish turban in Constantinople than the papal tiaras.’ And so, when Mehmet II entered Constantinople, the day after it was taken by his soldiers, oh by the way there was a Hungarian in the Turkish side, his name was Orban and he has invented this big cannon that there was this huge cannon ball, the world’s biggest at that time. Well you know the story. In any case, when Mehmet enters the city, he gave command that George Scolaros to be brought to him. Now George Scolaros was taken by a soldier and he was going to be sold as a slave. But there were so many captives that were on the market where you can buy a slave for the price of pair a shoes, that time. So Mehmet and George Scolaros met together then he told him that he would like him to be Patriarch of Constantinople. And the very first thing that George Scolaros did when he was named Patriarch Gennadios was to repudiate the union of Florence, which means that the Pope has no reason to raise a crusade to liberate Constantinople from the Turks. So this was considered a very politically astute move on the part of Mehmet II. But I rather prefer your interpretation that it was a spiritual orientation that moved him in that direction.
You cannot separate now the spirit from the motifs because in our tradition…
Priest: I’m afraid we do it very well in the United Sates.
That’s the thing. What do you become when you separate? You become psychotic. Because we are not separate. Right now as we are feeding our ego, we are also feeding our intelligence and we are feeding our spirit. At the risk of sounding arrogant, but in our reading of the words of Christ, when he says, ‘Render to Ceaser what is Ceaser’s, render to God what is God’s’ it is not a separation what belongs to Ceasar and what belongs to God. Because they are not equal. It is to say, what is not God. Ceasar belongs to God. So now, Mehmet, you have to understand, when we address the Khalifas, the Caliphs of the Ottoman Empire, in our tradition, it’s not that we see them as perfect beings. They are humans but they are the Friends of Allah. They are Saints. And Saints are guided to do certain things that we may never understand. And Sultan Mehmet Fatih, although he relied on what is current technology at that time to conquer Constantinople, Constantinia, the reason for his conquering Constantinople was because the Prophet says, ‘the one who conquers Constantinople he is the best of general. And the army is the best of the army.’ They were racing to get that honor, to be praised by the Prophet.
Priest: So it was a spiritual quest?
Of course it is a spiritual quest.
Priest: It was a spiritual conquest?
Of course it is a spiritual conquest.
Priest: Of course we’ve never hear about that.
This is our side. And I don’t blame people who don’t believe. But at least let us tell our story every now and again. You have your narrative, of course I don’t mean you…
Priest: But you see, it’s more than every now and again. We need to hear more from you.
This is our narrative. The Constantinople was tried twenty-three times since the time of the Prophet. That one of the Prophet’s companions, Ayyub Sultan, he is a companions and he is a Saint of Allah, a believer and a friend of Allah. He was buried just outside the wall of Constantinople in one of those quest. So, Constantinople, the Greek Orthodoxy, the Greek Church and Islam relation, in our narrative, the relationship has been close since the time of the Prophet. The Emperor that was ruling then when the Prophet was the Prophet, when the Prophet is alive, he was not veiled from this world, his name was Heraclius. And just as the Emperor of Abyssinia who was also an Orthodox Christian at that time, and the emperor Heraclius, in our narrative, they were waiting for the last Prophet. And the emperor of Abyssinia, he accepted the messengership of the last Prophet, of the Prophet Muhammad.
Emperor Heraculius, he was visited often by the Arabs from Arabia and they had trade missions with him, very close ties, and they came to him and they said, ‘This new man came to declare himself a Prophet.’ And Heraclius knew what he was. And he said, ‘This man, has he ever told a lie?’ People back then they have honor, they tell the truth. They said, ‘Well, until the age of forty, he has never told a lie.’ He said, ‘Then it is impossible for this man who has never told a lie for forty years of his life to suddenly wake up and to say that he is the Prophet of God, and to fool people.’ He says, ‘who are his followers?’ This is his enemy speaking, name at that time was Abu Sufyan, he was Abu Sufyan before he became a companion, before he became a believer, he was an enemy and he said, ‘people around him, they were the poor, they were orphans, they were indigent.’ He says, ‘yes. That is another sign of the Prophet. Does he collect wealth?’ He says, ‘no.’ So he went on to give a list of the criterion of Prophethood. And our last Prophet, Prophet Muhammad, he fulfilled every criteria. So in our narrative, Heraclius is also waiting for the last Prophet. And the relationship again, now say with Hagia Sophia…
Priest: Hagia Sophia.
They were about to build the largest Cathedral in Christendom. And the emperor, if I’m not mistaken it’s still Heraclius if not his successor, asked advice from the Prophet, saying, ‘we are trying to raise the first, the biggest free standing Dome in the world as a House of Worship.’ And the Prophet said, his architects came to ask help from the Prophet and the Prophet said, ‘gather me some soil.’ And he took some soil to the Prophet and the Prophet put his Holy saliva in there and he rolled it. And he said, ‘now return this to your emperor and place it in each corner of the Cathedral.’ When he returned and he did that, they managed to raise the dome. And he said, ‘that dome, is going to be a House of Worship for us too when the day comes.’
Priest: Hagia Sophia.
Yes. Hagia Sophia.
Priest: Holy wisdom.
Holy wisdom. And when the Hagia Sophia was taken, of course in Orthodox Christianity, as far as I understand, icons are there. There were no statues.
Priest: No statues. Only two dimension.
Yes, two dimension. And, there was no call for destruction. It was only covering. Covering with plaster, the icons that were on the ceilings, that today they start peeling it to show that this is the, again the respect for the veneration, this is again, this is a House of Worship. And how is this house of worship different from another house of worship? There isn’t. Because the belief of people of the Book, we worship to the same Lord, to the same God.
Priest: You and I have the same God?
Priest: You call him by a different Name than we call Him, but it’s the same god.
Jesus, Isa (alaihi salam), we spoken Aramaic, the way that he calls God is much closer than the way that we call God : ʼĔlāhā (Alaha). That is how he spoke. And our way of calling God, it is Allah.
Priest: And the Jews say Yahweh?
Yahweh is not the name of Allah, tetragrammatons, and in our tradition, we say, ‘Ya Hu.’ Ya Hu is that One who is He.
Priest: He who is
He who is. ‘I am as I am.’ When they address, of course they never use that, and they say, hasha, ‘His name.’ It is too Holy for them to mention, and they say, ‘His Name,’ as a third person. What did Mehmet, one of his first edicts as conqueror of Istanbul, conqueror of Constantinople, is what? ‘Come back.’ He says, ‘you who were living here, come back. Come back because he has a change in management but the company remains the same. We have to produce.’ And they did.
Priest: And they did. There was a great culture for such a long time.
And we are happy to remember it. And we are happy when we have people who remember that too. Because like I said before, people remember only terrible things. We had an empire and a culture in Constantinople, in Istanbul. We had a culture in Baghdad e-Sharif. Christians, Muslims and Jews, we had a culture in Spain, Andalusia. We had a culture in Damascus where after a while, like I said, people of different religion, we are people of the Book, sit down, learn how to eat together.
Priest: It’s a spiritual thing too.
Absolutely. So, if the purpose was only for this world and for the glory of this world, and to collect riches, or to collect the names, or to subjugate your enemies, there would not be a single standing Church from Bosnia sweeping all across the middle East, to Spain, to Western China. But we spoke before, the Holiest Shrine in Christianity, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, as far as I know, it still stands. And interestingly, even the Israel government they didn’t want to change, could not change the rules that the Ottomans have places from centuries ago about the duties and the ownership and how things are supposed to work in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. And the key that opens every morning still belongs to an old Ottoman family that then they would give to, I believe it was the Orthodox to open it, or he opens it himself.
Priest: We have a presence too, of the Orthodox. You know, you speak of your narrative and I must ask you a question.
Please be comfortable.
Priest: Oh, I’m very comfortable here, but just one of those little miniature of history. On the day that Constantinople fell, it was because someone had left the door opened in the court of the great wall. Do you know anything about this?
Yes, I do. I know about that very well.
Priest: Well, western scholars that I’ve read, they don’t know who is responsible for that. Now I’m wondering if you have any information on that subject. It’s not an important detail but it’s something I’ve been curious about. Because those great walls have withstood many siege up until 1453.
I’m afraid I don’t have any new information on that.
Priest: Well, all we know is that the emperor whose name is Constantine XII, when he heard that the Turks were in the city, he tried to gather what few troops he had to expel them and it was impossible. There were too many. So he essentially said that anyone who desires an honorable death, follow me. And with a few followers he charged into the Turks and he was killed of course. How come that he himself had anticipated. So the question is who was responsible for leaving that gate opened in the great wall and that is lost in the fog of history apparently.
Yes. But it worked out for the Muslims, huh? (Sheykh and Priest laughed) I wonder who did that. I’ve read that account in several history books and they said that someone who, again it’s kind of tricky. It’s tricky because, as you know history is written by the victors, and history that is written about an event that happened centuries ago, who writes the history? I’m not privy to authentic Ottoman history, about the events at that time. What I’m privy to is what Barnes and Nobles would allow us to read on that time and again it’s someone else writing about our narrative.
Priest: That’s right. That’s why I come to you.
Yes. I’ve heard of that. Okay, I’ve heard of that. And that someone who had a personal grievance to the emperor and who accepted a bribe, he decided to leave that door open. So many things can happen. Strange things happened during the time of war. But, when Sultan Mehmet he tried to penetrate Constantinople, and he couldn’t for some time, and he had a Sheykh, he had a spiritual guide, a friend of Allah, a Saint, then he asked the Sheykh, ‘I’m doing everything correctly. Still I cannot have victory. I cannot even come close.’ They have the chains in the sea, the walls…
Priest: There were the golden horns
Ahh, it’s almost impenetrable. Till he had to cross over the mountains with the ships and to land over the other side. That is not just spiritual inside. That is pure genius to be able to do that. But, his Sheykh said you will never be able to conquer Constantinople because there is a Saint, there is a friend of Allah living within the walls. A Muslim. And he’s going about there and he is also running to have the praise from Allah and praise from the Prophet, to say that he conquered Constantinople. And he is a Muslim. He is in disguised. He’s living there and he’s saying, ‘don’t touch my little Greeks.’ He said. ‘I will conquer them but not through the sword. I will conquer their hearts.’ And the Sheykh said, ‘as long as that Saint is in power there, there is no way that you will be able to penetrate.’ So now, we move to a higher hierarchy of politics of Saints. Who arbitrates? Who judges? Allah judges. Did Mehmet force his way through? He spent the whole night just praying. He said, ‘if it is for me, let me have victory. If it’s not for me, take my life now.’ And whole night he worshipped. And in the morning the Sheykh came to him and said, ‘Allah has answered your prayer. It is destined that you will conquer.’
Priest: That’s when the eclipse happened, I believe.
Priest: An eclipse happened after he passed, I think.
Yes, the eclipse happened, and he said, ‘that friend of Allah, that Saint there, Allah has taken his life. As long as he is alive, he is going to block you.’ So, there is a certain sophistication of politics also that happens with the Prophets and the friends of Allah.
Priest: But it seems like, if he prayed and his prayers were answered, this somehow transcends politics.
But what is the politics for? What is the transcendental nature of politics? And what is politics?
Priest: I supposed it’s power, ordering a society in a way that either benefits the autocrat or benefits the people in general.
Right. It is ruling and it is ruling either as a representative of our Lord, or ruling as a representative of our ego and of sheytan.
Priest: You know, of course the Moreno overran all of the Iberian peninsula up to the Pyrenees, and it was about seven hundred years they occupied Spain.
The Muslims. Yes.
Eight hundred years. Yes.
Priest: The Reconquista, what was his name? Boabdul, in Granada? He was the last one.
Yes. He was the last one.
Priest: There is an interesting story they tell.
Boabdil. The westerners call him Boabdil
Priest: Boabdul? Abdul, Abdul?
Boabdil. And supposedly when he left, his mother said…
Priest: weep like a woman for what you could not defend as a man.
There you go
Priest: But he made a good effort, I think
Well, if someone comes to you, and you are a tailor and presents you with a shirt that he took from a piece of clothes and he cuts it up and he tries to sew it and he says, ‘now I have this thing that is not a shirt, that I’ve ripped it up, I’ve sewed it, please help me, you are a tailor. Fix it. What can a tailor do? Not too much. Boabdil inherited that. And now when we are talking about the rulership and the politics of Granada, and how because they are Muslims, it doesn’t exempt them if they are not spiritual, if they are not following the spiritual precepts of the Prophet, then that mandate will be taken away from them. Very easily. And Allah will give it to someone else. And Allah even says in the Quran, saying if you don’t rule properly, we will perhaps take the faith that we have given to you and give it to your enemies. And that we have seen happening in the history of Islam over and over. The Mongols who came and who had decimated the Muslim lands and they were on their way to decimate the Christian lands, of course they destroyed Christianity in Central Asia, and that was the, eh I forget the term, what were they call? What kind of Christians were they called, in China?
Nestorians. Yes the Nestorian Christianity, they finished that.
Priest : Oh yes, right, the Nestorians were in China.
Yes, they were in China. They were very powerful. And the Nestorians, most of them were Turks. And they came, and they swept, and they came and they destroyed Baghdad and they made mountains of the skulls of Muslims, in which they were the enemies and they came and they were saying, ‘we are the scourge of Allah.’ And the Muslims believe that because again Baghdad, although they are Muslims and they ruled, but they strayed away. They strayed away from the way of truth, the way of Orthodoxy. They became enamored of this world, of power.
Priest: Materialism is the problem with the Muslims as well, sometimes.
Materialism is a problem that is in everyone, and Islam is saying that, like what Rumi is saying, ‘take what is in my hand. Do not look what is in my hand, but take what is in my heart.’ If we take what is in our hand and we put it in the heart, that is blasphemy. That is idolatry.
Yes, that is idolatry. What is the meaning of worship? When you love something, you spend so much time thinking about it, your whole life is dedicated to it. Now the idolatry is not a thing that we form and we worship. The idolatry can be a car, the idolatry can be a philosophy, the idolatry it can be politics, the idolatry can be anger, the idolatry can be revenge, all that in Islam is saying, ‘La ilaha ilallah,’ there is no God, there is no being, there is no entity to be worshipped except for that ultimate reality, except for Allah. Except for our Creator.
Priest: This language of worship that I heard, is in Arabic?
Priest: A classical Arabic?
Yes, it is.
Priest: Somebody name Harun ar-Rashid, maybe who would have spoken that?
He was an Abbasid
Priest: Oh, not an Arab?
He is an Arab.
Priest : An Abbasid?
That is his dynasty.
Priest: Oh, I see, that is his dynasty name. You are not talking about Abyssinia?
No, not Abyssinia. Abbasid, what we call, coming from the Prophet’s uncle, his name is Abbas. So from his lineage, that is after the Umayyad. And the Umayyad dynasty comes after the four Khalifahs that ruled after the Prophet’s time, then the Umayyad dynasty happened, then the Abbasid. The Umayyad, the center of rule was in Damascus. Then the Abbasids, and these were Arabs, the Abbasids they moved it to Baghdad. But after the Abbasids, when again the ruling of Islam became very stinted, it wasn’t until the Ottomans who just took everything together and piece everything together. And before that it was very stinted. Now, Andalusia.
Priest: In Spain?
Yes in Spain, that we were talking about, Spain. 800 years he was there. But it was a splinter from the Abbasid Empire. He was the last remaining Sion of the house, of the Bani Umayyad, of the Umayyad dynasty, that he fled to Spain and he founded his own empire there that is distinct from the court of the Abassid Empire in Baghdad. So, he ruled, of course, commanding all the trade routes making him very powerful, very rich. But when there is dissension again, when you fall in love with the world, there will be confusion and there will be dissension. So when that happened, and he was not able to hold again the mandate of the ruling of Islam, Allah gave victory to the Christians.
Priest: You know there was something interesting going on in Spain. You seem to know something about just every subject.
Aahh, very little bit.
Priest: There is something, I wonder if you are aware. I like to share it with you because it affected the relations between Rome and Constantinople. You are speaking of similarities, and the people in the Iberian peninsula, the indigenous people felt those similarity because there was quite a bit of cooperation and mutual regard between the Muslims who came across from the Straits of Gibraltar and the local people. And when there were discussion about the differences between Islam and Christianity, the Muslims were pleased to inform the Christians in the Iberian peninsula that we revered and honored Jesus Christ. He, we look upon as a Prophet. And the indigenous people were saying to their Bishops, ‘look, we have Christ and they have Christ. So what’s the difference.’ So there was a response from the Bishops that Christ is not merely a Prophet but the incarnate God, the second person of the trinity. Now this Trinitarian concept, don’t ask me to explain because the definition it is a mystery. No one can explain it, how can there be one God but three persons in God. In any case the original Nicene creed which came out of the council of Nicias 325AD and the council of Constantinople in 381AD, it defines the doctrine of the trinity. And according to, if I may be permitted to, according to the sixth article of the…, I don’t know which number article, but we say as Christians, ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit of Lord and giver of life who proceeds from the father who together with the father and his son who is worship to God…’ Well, Rome felt that it was necessary to insert this infamous filioque clause.
Yes, I’ve heard of that, yes.
Priest: and, so it would read in English, ‘and I believe in the Holy spirit of Lord and giver of life who proceeds from the father and the son.
That was the bone of contention, now.
Priest: That’s right. And the reason they did it is because of the Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula was saying, ‘we have Christ and you have Christ. We are the same.’ But if Christ were merely a Prophet then the Holy spirit couldn’t proceed from the father to the son. They couldn’t proceed from the son if the son were just a Prophet. So they had to emphasis Christ divinity by inserting the filioque clause. And having the holy spirit proceed from the father and the son.
And this was 325AD.
Priest: No, that was 381.
But the Prophet came in 622.
Priest: The point is this, that three, four hundred years later, the indigenous population in the Iberian peninsula were ready to embrace Islam and so the Pope thought it was necessary to insert the filioque clause to make the Iberians understand the difference between Jesus as a Prophet and Jesus the incarnate son of God. And this filioque clause, the pope inserted in the Nicene creed, brought about the great schism in 1054 AD between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Because the Orthodox was saying, ‘wait a minute. This creed is the property of the whole church. You don’t have the right to change the creed unilaterally without consulting the rest of us.’ So this was the conversation. Yeah I understand what you’ve said earlier about the indigenous people in Spain began to understand the similarities between the two branches of faith, the two religion. You almost make it sound as if I’m listening to you, it’s not two religion, but it’s different aspects of the same religion.
I’m not trying to make it sound that way. That is how we believe. That is how it is. Because in Islam, it is not as again the narrative that you read to look at Islam in, Encyclopedia Britannica: Islam, began in 622 by a Shepherd, camel herder who heard the voice of God in the cave and he start spreading social reform…da, da, da…
Priest: That’s what you read.
Exactly. But that’s not how we read. And that is our narrative. So, who has more right now to tell you your story other than yourself?
Priest: I think there are important elements of our story that are missing from our hearts.
And this is something that is very major for us because we believe that the Prophet Muhammad came from a long line of Prophets, that all said the same thing. 124000 Prophets that came before him since the time of Adam, and he was the first man and first Prophet. Noah was a Prophet, and the time of Ibrahim, Abraham and 70 000 Prophets that were given to the Bani Israel and one Prophet that came from the Arabs, and that was the last Prophet. 124 000 Prophets, and they all said the same thing. So now, from our narrative, the Prophet Muhammad (asws) is like a full blossoming of a Rose. That when Adam (as) came it was like that (Sheykh pointed to a small bud). Then Noah (as) became like that (bud starts to open), then slowly it starts opening and opening and opening, and with Jesus, Isa (as) he brought spirituality. That’s why Sufis, we feel very close to him because he starts talking about spirituality, he starts talking about diseases of the spirit, to reform the nation that he was sent. He did not come with the law, he came with love. And now with the Prophet Muhammad (asws), he came with the law and he came with spirituality, with love. And with these two wings, he says, ‘now we can fly.’ If you only have the law, or you only have love but you don’t have both, it will be like an airplane that has lost its engine and is just circling around the tarmac. It gets dizzy. You may think you are going somewhere, but you have to have both to take off.
So now, our narrative is, that the Prophet, and we are not even speaking about him as a Prophet when Adam was between water and clay, we are not even speaking about him as a Prophet when there was nothing except Allah, so, we are not touching about him also as a spiritual entity, we are just speaking about him and his tradition now, what he brought is nothing new. But it is to remind the people of the book, to remind all others that we are given revelation because in Islam it says that not only Prophet in the middle east and this and that, every group to every nation, were sent a messenger. And that messenger brought just one message, and that message, it is free from dogma, because it just say, ‘La ilaha illallah,’ – there is no God but God. Don’t make God, don’t make yourself to be a God, don’t worship any other things except for that One who created you. He deserves to be worshiped. And that is what is call a Creed, testimony of faith in Islam. When we say, ‘La ilaha ilallah Muhammadur Rasulullah,’ Muhammad is a messenger of God. Every Prophet came to say, turn your face away from this world to Him that send you, I am the Prophet.
So Adam is saying, ‘La ilaha ilallah Adam Rasulullah,’ the messenger of Allah. Nuh saying the same thing, every Prophet came saying the same thing. So that is our narrative. Now, to us there is one way, and that way has always been the way that the Prophet they brought. Now Judaism may take a branch somewhere, they did not accept Ruhullah, the spirit of Allah which is Isa (as). We have so many similarities with the Jewish faith in terms of ritual. They pray three times a day, we pray five times a day. They fast, we fast. There are so many similarities now in terms of law, between the law of Moses and the laws of Muhammad (asws). But it is made easier so that everyone can carry it. But they did not accept the spirituality of Isa (as). In our belief, he was not crucified. In our belief he was not crucified, he was switched. In our belief, and I’m not talking about unorthodox Muslim belief, this is orthodox Muslims belief, that it was Judas Iscariot that was crucified. Their heads were changed. He was lifted body and spirit to Paradise by the Angels and he will return to bring the Ahlil Kitab together. Now this is our belief. But Jesus brought spirituality. Isa (as). You see it’s very unusual for me to say his name without putting ‘may the peace of God be with him.’
Priest : Isa Alaihi Salam?
Alaihi Salam. So, the Jews, those who were not believing in him, unfortunately they said so many, so many insulting things about him and his mother.
Priest : Oh.
We say, Maryam Ana, Ana means mother. We call her Maryam Ana.
Priest: Maryam? That’s Mary?
Mother Mary. Maryam Ana means Mother Mary. We address her as ‘Mother Mary.’ She is described in the Quran as the highest woman that Allah has ever created. Higher in spiritual rank than even, say, the mother of the Prophet or his wife. And the Jews call Isa (as), some of them, that were in power at that time, saying that he is, Astaghfirullah may Allah forgive me, that he is the illegitimate, the bastard son of a Roman soldier who copulated…
Priest: with Maryam
Astaghfirullah, that his miracles were the products of his years in Egypt, learning the black arts
Priest : Oh my goodness. That’s the Jewish? Some of them though, not all?
I taught Yeshiva students for over seven years.
Priest: You mean this is Orthodox students? I didn’t know that.
Yes. That if you don’t believe, I mean I’m not saying that you are doubting me or whatever, but open their Talmud and read what it says. It’s there. And this is unfortunate. So they did not accept Jesus, Isa (as). They say that he’s evil. Now, in our understanding, the Christians, they love him so much and they say that he is the son of Allah. And in our understanding, what Isa (as) brought, was to say, ‘the way that Allah swt He has created me and He has given me to be close to Him, He has given to each and every one of you. And, the way to reach Him now, it is through me. Therefore, he says, you don’t go to the Father except through me. And that is exactly what the Muslims believe when Isa (as) says, ‘Isa Rasulullah. There is no God but God and I am your way, the way to lead to Him.’ We just finished the Maghrib, the sunset prayer, and in our tradition the sunset prayer, it is the prayer that is inherited from Jesus, Isa (as), when he prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane.
Priest: So he is a great Prophet amongst you?
He is the greatest after the Holy Prophet Muhammad (asws). After which, Nabi Ibrahim (as), Musa (as). There were five Prophets, the highest level Prophets, and Musa (as) is there. His work, in our belief, is not finished, and he is going to come back. So, this is what we are waiting for. So, you see, then in Islam, our narrative is the Prophet Muhammad came to complete the religion that was revealed since time in memorial.
Priest: Ahh, I see. When you speak of the Book, and other Muslims that I’ve known, say that we Christians and Jews are people of the Book and I will like to test my understanding in this, and I can ask you a correct question directly, is it correct that the Book is: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, is that the Book? Which we call it the Mosaic law or the Torah, they call it the Torah, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, that’s the Book?
Priest : Two Books?
People of the Book, meaning people who are given Books, given Kitab. Kitab means Holy Books, Holy Revelations. Of course the Prophets did not write it down and give it. The Book was themselves and they were speaking it. The Book that was given to Musa (Moses) was the Taurat and the Book that was given to Jesus, is the Injil, the évangile. And the book that was given to Daud (David) was the Zabur, Psalm, and the Book that was given to Muhammad (asws) is the Quran. Four major Books, but there are hundred Books that came before. These are called ‘Suhuf,’ or pages. Some were given to Adam (as), some given to Noah (as), some given to different, different Prophets. But four major Books, they were given to this four major Prophets. So now, when we say people of the Book, the Book that was given to the Jews, the Taurat e-Sharif, the honorable Torah. The Book, whether it is something that is literal or teachings that is compiled in the person, that was given to Isa (as) (Jesus) is the Injil, the Evangile. So this is what we mean by the Book.
Priest: By the Book you are actually are speaking of four Books?
Yes. I was speaking of four Books.
Priest: and the Injil, the Gospel?
Yes, the Gospel, the evangile.
Priest: You have those too?
We have those teachings. We have the teachings of Moses. We have the teachings of Isa (Jesus). We have the teachings of all the other Prophets that is in the Quran, which we call the Ummul Kitab, the Mother of the Book.
Priest: Right now, in the United States, unfortunately, people who are Muslims are feared. And I think, there’s a sort of, what was his name? whoever declares himself as Caliph? Abu Bakar. And he was saying, ‘obey your Caliphs,’ and there has been some discussion about directives from ISIS to Muslims in United States to conduct active terror against…I don’t feel, here I am a Christian, I don’t feel like I’m in mortal danger of being…
Why should you though? Because I don’t enter into the midst of Christians also, I’m saying that the ridiculousness of this frenzy that comes about, I don’t enter into Christians or Greeks or Catholics to say that, ‘oh you are Crusaders,’ or ‘you are KKK members,’ just because certain people belonging to certain faith they have used that in a very terrible way.
Priest: Well I understand that of course, but would if every American could sit here where I’m sitting here, being in your presence, and listening to the things you are saying, I feel you are, first of all I feel your warmth, I feel your hospitality, I feel home. I feel at home here. I feel very comfortable here.
John, this has been the tradition of Islam since the time of the Prophet.
Priest : Why we don’t know it? Americans tend not to know this.
Why don’t they know?
Priest : Because you don’t speak loud enough, perhaps.
Whoever is given the microphone will speak. It’s not given to me. The microphone is given to others. And they speak.
Priest: I have a column in the newspaper, down there in Carpendale. And every once in a while I write a column about Islam. And I write it, you know, Muslims they are hardworking, law abiding people, they are not to be feared. That they are making positive contribution to the society where they live. And you know, I cited names of different individuals who has made significant contributions in Science, and literature and so on and so forth. I can send you copies of my columns.
It’s very enlightened of you in this current situation to be standing up against tide. A lone voice in the wilderness.
Priest: Oh, that was my patron Saint, John the Baptist, A voice crying in the wilderness. My patron Saint, he lost his head cos he couldn’t keep his mouth shut.
That is our Prophet, we believe in him. He is quoted in the Quran.
Priest: Well I don’t mean to make a comparison.
No, no, no. We understand your reverence for him. We feel very close to him as well. This is what I mean. And when I mentioned Yahya in there, that’s John the Baptist, because he is the cousin of Isa (as) and we feel close to him too. Out of the 124 000 Prophets that are named, only twenty-five are mentioned by name in the Quran.
Priest: And he is amongst them?
He is amongst them.
Sheykh Lokman Efendi Hz,
Khalifah of SahibulSaif Shaykh Abdulkerim el Kibrisi (qs),
OSMANLI DERGAHI- New York