Interview with Gibril Fouad Haddad

Interviewer: Omar Tufail; from: 2004

as-Salam'Alaikum Sidi,

Wa `alaykum as-Salam wa rahmatullah

To begin with, can you tell us a little about your background?

A mix of Orthodox and Roman/Maronite Catholic Beiruti-Choufi family. We lost my father two years into the Lebanese war, which prompted my mother to school me and my brothers in England then New York where she remarried and where my American stepfather and my uncle put us through college where I read English then I went on to post-graduate degrees in French literature.

How did this influence your outlook on life?

I was disappointed by the moral inconsistency of much of what I studied then taught as "culture." I predictably imagined that a spiritual cure must lay East, back home, somewhere else... Yet, perhaps paradoxically, freedom from origin and "be all that you can be" are American values that allowed, I am told, a conversion that would have been less thinkable in my native country. But God does what He wants.

What was it that made you question your Christian faith and convert to Islam?

I don't recall ever questioning my Christian faith; on the contrary, faith was the one constant I knew I could depend on. I followed it where what I consider Divine grace took me -- through that very faith -- to its logical conclusion. In part I mourned the practical inconsequence of Christianism on the behavior of the societies and families I knew and its reduction to an individual oddity. However, I do not question the fact that, as far as I know, by the grace of God it is precisely through trying to practice my Christian faith in earnest and as an adult that I came to the Muslim faith.

What books have had the most impact on your life?

I mentioned some of this in an old text... How I Came to Islam. Since that time, I might add the books of Imam al-Dhahabi, particularly the superlative Dar al-Fikr edition of his Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' and his exquisitely thorough history-writing personality saturated with unconcealed love of hadith and its glorious sciences. Among the modern counterparts that approach that style might be Shaykh `Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda and his teacher, Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari, Allah have mercy on them. I have benefited so much from these arch-writers!

When and why did you decide to become a student of Sacred Knowledge?

For the two or three years that led to what became in 1997 Al-Sunna Foundation of America's _Encyclopedia of Islamic Doctrine_ a knack for sourcing and some translation skills had helped refute many of the misconceptions propagated by American Salafism -- a task that does not require much knowledge. When this was done I desired to hone those skills and anchor them in a dedicated environment where I might continue to read and translate while focusing more on `Ilm for my benefit and that of my family. So I left New York and moved to Damascus. The Encyclopedia is still webbed at the arrow out Sunnah.org website as of today, 15 March 2004 / 23 Muharram 1525.

What places have you been in search of knowledge and what teachers have you had the privilege to learn from?

The first place was London in the month of Ramadan following my conversion, where I took the noble hand of Mawlana Shaykh Muhammad Nazim al-Haqqani after having been introduced to the ways of Tariqa by his son-in-law and American deputy, Shaykh Hisham Kabbani, to whom I am forever indebted. The second place, also thanks to the latter, was the old house and library of Mawlana Shaykh Nazim in Mount Qasyoun in Damascus -- may Allah ever protect her, which became our new home and whose ancient baraka has dispensed every subsequent blessing we experienced there since our hijra in 1997, including the 4-month visit of my dear Mother recently.

From there I visited Shaykh Nazim several times in his home in Cyprus and saw him in Damascus as well. He is the greatest shortcut I know to this saving knowledge of the Religion which is every sane person's goal and which is described in the magnificent verse {He giveth wisdom unto whom He will, and he unto whom wisdom is given, he truly hath received abundant good! But none remember except men of understanding} (2:269).
I took from him a timeless directive,
which I am authorized to pass on to every seeker of truth:
OUR GOAL IS THE DEFENSE AND ILLUSTRATION OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD AND HIS LOFTY ATTRIBUTES
MHMD upon him and his House and Companions blessings and peace;
to which Allah support us!

I was also honored to study in Damascus with Dr. Nur al-Din `Itr, Shaykh Adib Kallas, Shaykh Wahbi al-Ghawji, Shaykh Muhammad al-Ya`qubi, Dr. Samer al-Nass, Dr. Wahba al-Zuhayli, Shaykh `Abd al-Hadi Kharsa, Shaykh Muhammad Muti` al-Hafiz, Shaykh Bassam al-Hamzawi, my dear friend Shaykh Munir al-Hayek, in Makka Dr. Muhammad `Alawi al-Maliki, in Morocco Sidi Mustafa Bassir, and in Beirut the late Shaykh Husayn `Usayran, the last of the close students of the pious Qadi Shaykh Yusuf al-Nabhani -- Allah reward them all and continue to benefit us through them! I described the meetings with Dr. al-Maliki and Sidi Mustafa Bassir in texts that were posted respectively at arrow out Naqshbandi.net and arrow out LivingIslam.org.

You translate from Arabic into English. Can you mention some of the works you have been involved with?

Al-Hamdu lillah, in Damascus I published a bilingual collection of forty hadiths on the excellence of Sham (Syria) and its people, following the long-standing wish of Mawlana Shaykh Nazim, which was well-approved by the persons of eminence there and elsewhere.
I am hoping for the forthcoming UK publication of my book on the Four Imams and Their Schools and the second edition of Ibn `Abd al-Salam's Belief of the People of Truth in addition to booklets and talks on various topics such as Christ and Mahdi by al-Habib `Ali Jafri, the Prophets in Barzakh by Shaykh al-`Alawi al-Maliki, a critique of Mufti Taqi Usmani's regrettable fatwa on Mawlid (of which a web version is available at arrow out LivingIslam.org), a concise primer on contemporary Salafism titled "Albani and his Friends," a complete translation of Qadi Ibn Jahbal al-Dimashqi's refutation of Ibn Taymiyya's notorious Fatwa Hamawiyya in which he attributes altitude and the upward direction to Allah Most High, and other works. Ulum-ud-Din.org, x L 20120703 .

What projects are you currently working on?

Two annotated translations and two "original" works among other projects -- may Allah Most High bring them to a beneficial conclusion by the honor of His Most Elect Prophet! MHMD The translations are al-Qari's major dictionary of forgeries and al-Abhani's Miracles of the Unseen, each book covering about 625 hadiths. About 80 hadiths excerpted from the latter also requested by my Shaykh (see arrow out LivingIslam.org). The two original works are "The Rightly-Guided Caliphs" and "The Ash`ari School." The latter work represents the combined wishes of all my beloved teachers without exception, hence my high hopes to bring it to a successful conclusion one day insha' Allah!

You follow the Shafi`i madhhab and the Naqshbandi Tariqa. What made you choose these paths?

After contacts with the Khalwati-Jerrahi and Shadhili-Darqawi paths I was born into the Naqshbandi Tariqa the year of my conversion and practiced the Hanafi Madhhab for a few years. Then I chose the Shafi`i Madhhab for three reasons: I found it easier to study thanks to Shaykh Nuh Keller's Reliance of the Traveller (may Allah reward him!); more logical to practice because it is the main Madhhab of my country of origin as well as my dear wife's and that of the region where we reside; and its Qurayshi Imam is related to the Prophet MHMD , who said to hold fast to the Qur'an and the people of his House, upon him and them blessings and peace.

You have been resident in Damascus for a number of years now, what advice would you have for someone considering travelling there to study?

Make a conscious decision not to speak other than Arabic while there, always finish what you begin, keep respect of those you know and do not know, and act with the firm conviction that you are running out of time.

May Allah reward you for your efforts Sidi. Do you have any nasiha for us as we conclude this interview inshaAllah?

May Allah make our best deeds our last and count you and us among those that {have not altered in the least} (33:23).

JazakAllah khair for your time Sidi. May Allah protect you and increase you in good.

And you also, was-Salam.
Al-faqir Hajj Gibril

This interview is also at arrow out DeenPort.com

note:
The books mentioned at that site are among others:
Martin Lings' "Life of Muhammad" and Fariduddin Attar's "Book of Secrets" (Persian "Asrar-Nama").
Martin Lings' account of Shaykh Ahmad `Alawi's life in his book "A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century."

A page on Shaykh Ahmad Al-'Alawi
in German and English is at arrow out LivingIslam.org







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