Resources / Seniors of Islam

Muhammad Zahid Al-Kawthari *

Kawthari had an unbiased perception; he studied a topic, examined the supporting evidence and reached a conclusion. This is a fundamental quality required in a scholar. He had sound reason and judgment. He had a sound method of obtaining knowledge. Methods are extremely important in science. He had an outstanding language skill. He had his native language; the language in which he was educated, and the language he used when he was writing... A great scholar.

Translations in other Languages

Prof. Dr. M. Es’ad Cosan
(May Allah have mercy on him)

Opening Speech

Alhamdulillahi Rabbil-alemîn. Wa’salatu wa’salamu ala khayri halkihi Muhammadin wa ala alihi wa ashabihi ajma’in. Wa man tabia’hu bi-ihsanin ila yawmi’dîn.

My dear brothers,

Welcome to the Zahid al-Kawthari Symposium. This Symposium is a cultural study that bears great importance for the province of Düzce. In fact, it bears importance in many aspects. Our faith is our greatest asset. As Muslims, our main duty is protecting our faith and conveying this to the new generations we teach and ensuring that people follow the path of Allah the Almighty. Protecting our faith; attaining true faith is acquired by education and training. In Islam this training is known as the science of Sufism (Tasawwuf), the path of Sufism. Teachings and discipline in Sufism is essential for people to become acquainted with Allah; for people to become the beloved servants of Allah; to teach people the way of life and chose activities that please Allah throughout their lives for the acceptance of their deeds. All of us should receive this training. This is essential to obtain the best results, to attain prosperity in both this world and the hereafter and for the success of the community on a whole; this is essential primarily for those responsible for the individuals of the society such as the senior members of the community, the sultans, presidents, and prime ministers.

For centuries this service has been carried out by the great heroes on the path of Sufism. Those heroes; the blessed individuals, Allah’s beloved servants introduced these paths in the most favorable manner for the nation; in the most beneficial way for the people and with the purest, most sincere emotions to the ummah. This is why our nation are wise, clever, well-mannered, hospitable, generous, devoted people; they consider kindness to others and spending their earnings in charity as the main objective in their lives. These were individuals who would willingly sacrifice their own lives for their faith and sanctity whenever necessary. These were leaders in Sufism devoted to teaching the people; to directing the ummah in their struggle and disciplining of their souls.

One of the most recent examples we admire greatly is the Caucasian hero Sheikh Shamil. The great people on the same sacred path spread all over the Islamic geography of Islam and performed many good works and efforts for the honor, peace, happiness and salvation of Islam and Muslims in this world and the hereafter. A prominent figure among them, the honorable Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari, was a great scholar from Düzce; a source of pride for the province of Düzce. His prominence will become more evident with the speeches given at the symposium.

In brief, Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari has provided great services to the Islamic religion; to the Islamic faith, Sufism, Islamic jurisprudence and the Hanafi jurisprudence with his works on issues that are topics of discussion and dispute even at the present. He corrected the inaccurate, incorrect views put forth in the lands he visited with his writings, and stood out with the excellent articles he wrote. Despite his modesty, he advanced greatly with his knowledge; he was exalted by Allah.

Last year when I visited Medina al-Munawwarah, I was conducting some research in the library of Masjid al-Nabawi. In the Masjid there was a library which had a rear exit. An official there asked me for some works published in Turkey. He said “I will be very grateful if you could bring any Turkish-Arabic books, old or new as a donation...”  At that point he asked, “There is a man called Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari known in Turkey; who is he?” This scholar attracted his attention.  In the twentieth century, he is a person whose name is followed with great interest in a country where Islamic sciences are taught with inspiration, he is an extremely important figure. The subjects he addressed also bear great importance in Islamic sciences, in Sufism.

In addition to the foundation works we conduct to serve our brothers of Düzce; here we also launched activities in services relating to our history and heroes by establishing the “Konuralp Science, Culture, Environment and Health Association” in memory of Konuralp, one of the great names of Düzce. The “Zahid al-Kawthari Symposium” is an important activity for our foundations, our associations and the Konuralp Association. Here, we will be revealing the greatness and true value of a distinguished person. Nations who appreciate produce appreciative people. He will be considered a role model in training new Zahid al-Kawtharis, new scholars, new Sufis, new heroes. As we become more familiar with his works, character and ideas, the benefits of this great scholar will expand.

I would like to thank the organizers of this symposium. They chose an extremely important issue, a topic of major importance for the Islamic region. I thank the scholars who participated as speakers. I would also like to offer my gratitude and respect to all of you who accepted our invitation as an audience. May Allah be pleased with you all. I sincerely hope our symposium will be beneficial, both physically and spiritually.

Closing Speech

My dear, valuable brothers,

Perhaps many people are unaware; Düzce is a major center in terms of religious sciences. This is a region that produced great, notable scholars in religious sciences. When I was studying at university, there was a German Orientalist named Helmut Ritter.

The remarks of non-Muslims  bear  more significance than our own opinions regarding ourselves. In our opinion, they came from totally different culture. Helmut Ritter is a person who came from a different country, a different culture. His remarks are important in these terms. Due to his scientific studies, he is a world-renowned, hardworking, highly respected figure. He may have accepted Islam, because in one of his lessons he said: “I am from the same order as my teacher Ismail Saib; I am Shafi.” He actually said this. I can only interpret his words not as a simple jest, but that he had genuinely become a Muslim. During a lesson, he once used a statement of disapproval regarding the Trinity when we were discussing the false beliefs of Christians.

Of course, this is inadequate to know certain facts; Abu Talib was also the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad. Although he was aware that his nephew was the Prophet of Allah, he never accepted the Islamic faith. He had to express his faith and perform the necessary duties. This eminent, renowned Orientalist related two statements:

    1. “You possess a language that has the richest capacity of expression in the world. You failed to appreciate its value; you corrupted and ruined the language.”

He said the Ottoman language was the most developed of all languages in the world and was a language capable of expressing all kind of opinions and fine meanings, but it had been corrupted.

    2. In one lesson he mentioned Mehmed Zihni Efendi, late author of the book of Ni’met-i Islam who was a scholar and a Sufi: We were reading Sibawayh’s book called al-Kitâb which is a very valuable, complicated work. It can only be understood by following the commentaries. The late Nihat Çetin Bey, who was an assistant at that time on our platform, read the difficult statements easily, and put forth a suggestion saying, “Sir, the meaning should be like this!” Ritter stopped and said:

“Where did you find this?”

Mehmed Zihni Efendi wrote works on the Arabic language. Mehmed Zihni Efendi even benefitted from Sibawayh’s works and stated this in his footnotes. To my surprise, Nihat Çetin was reading and solving the difficult issues from these footnotes, he even showed us. Then addressing us, Helmut Ritter said:

“As a nation, you fail to appreciate the value of the great people that emerged from among you. Mehmed Zihni Efendi is a great scholar, and I have great admiration for him.”       

This is also the case in Düzce. Many scholars came from Düzce. However, a majority of the people from Düzce, the neighboring areas or even Turkey in general are not aware of this. We decided to organize this symposium to eliminate this ignorance, to inform our people and introduce the role models our people can chose for guidance.

One reason why we choose Muhammad Zahid from Düzce, is that people in Turkey do not know the value and necessity of Sufism... Naturally, people who have no knowledge of Islam have no knowledge on Sufism. I am singling out such people. There are some who, although they are Muslims, oppose Sufism. There are some that, although they are educated people, oppose Sufism. There are some who claim to be “radical” despite the fact that they write for certain journals, or are ascribed certain titles who oppose Sufism, prophecies and submission. When I personally defend Sufism against such people, I defend this biasedly. I present the issue because I realize this is the best means of portraying the truth.

We held another symposium in Istanbul on the eminent scholar Mehmet Zahid Kotku. We invited scholars from all the theology faculties to the symposium. We told them to discuss topics on Sufism freely. A book was published on this. I am sure you will read it with great interest. There, Sufism was proved to be a genuine, essential, beneficial, Islamic form of Qur’anic science. We discussed Muhammad Zahid-i Duzcevi, one of the great scholars from Düzce at the symposium. He is also known as Kawthari, because he changed the name “Kutharî” in the articles he wrote throughout his life, and considering the “se” in his name was written with a lisp, this was probably his own choice. One of the reasons for organizing this symposium was to prove that Sufism, the Islamic path of truth, is essential. In these terms, we have reached our goal.

The fact that Muhammad Zahid Kawthari is an international Muslim figure is extremely significant. This assessment is certainly not an emotional, subjective assessment, but the result of objective criteria.

There is another important reason why we choose this scholar: Those who discuss the history of Sufism and the Sufism of the present and study Sufism witness a contradiction, namely the sharia and tariqa (Sufi order). So is the sharia different from tariqa, and tariqa different from the sharia. For example, a late author said, “Sufism is a different religion, “oracles do not exist.” He is conveying his own judgements here.

There are also schools that follow the Sufi path of the present. First and foremost, we are Muslims and we seek the pleasure of Allah. We are certainly not blind supporters of any cultural organization. Supposing that a person’s father and grandfather are on the wrong path, does that person have to follow the same path? Of course not.

The government allocates a budget for our Alevi brothers to build a djemevi (Alevi place of gathering). So I ask: Did Hz.Ali own a djemevi? During the time of Hz Ali, did his dear wife Fatima perform a ceremony with men in the djemevi as they do today? Did anybody from the family of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) (Ahl Bayt) perform these rituals? Did Hz Ali build an institution like this facing the mosque? Does the life style of Hz Ali show any similarities with the lives of these brothers (these are our brothers) involved in these practices? As a scientist and person who studied these issues I say: No, it shows no similarities. In terms of drinking alcohol; in terms of women participating in these ceremonies with men in a djemevi etc. this is totally inappropriate. If folklore or customs are contradictory to Islam, then according to us these are not permitted. People who are on the wrong path must accept Islam. There are people I know here. They didn’t follow the path of their ancestors, they chose the path of Allah’s pleasure. They chose the Islamic path. Accepting the truth is a great virtue. May Allah be pleased with them!

So from this example I will return to our original topic: Various Sufi groups exist all over Anatolia. If Sufism is Islam; if this means practicing the commands of Islamic law; if the conditions of Islamic law and conditions of the Messenger of Allah are fulfilled in the tariqa then it is acceptable. However, if there are aspects on the path of Sufism contrary to Islamic law in terms of belief, actions and the performance of religious duties, then these must be abandoned. So who would display such courage? If ordinary people display such courage, they will say, “Who are you, what right do you have to corrupt the path of tradition?” But it would bear more importance if eminent individuals, great scholars such as Zahid al-Kawthari said this, it would enlighten these people. Another reason for choosing Zahid al-Kawthari was to ensure Sufism is explained to the people, because our aim is not to maintain the customs, but to practice religion according to its original form. Our aim is not to maintain the historical institutions with their faults, but to correct, to activate, and convert these back to their primary source. We are extremely delighted in this respect. Our symposium has reached its goal.

These studies clearly reveal that Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari is a sincere and genuine scholar. Genuine scholars of this kind should be recognized by the students and teachers in the Theology (Imam Hatip) schools, and by teachers in the Faculties of Divinity. Becoming a true scholar is not easy; there are not many genuine scholars. We are hopeful; we are seeing some flourishing young scholars. We are delighted to see that prosperous individuals whose research and every word is based on a sound foundation are beginning to emerge among young intellectuals on the path of becoming true scholars.  Zahid al-Kawthari will certainly be a role model on this path. Kawthari had all the qualities required in a scholar; conducting research, studying in libraries, reading rare books even if they were unpublished, studying sources unknown to others; he had the mentality of a true researcher. This is an extremely important characteristic of a genuine scholar. He had great knowledge of the sources and their origins. He was a man who knew where to find anything he was researching.

Due to the extent and vastness of the Islamic culture today, not everyone has sufficient knowledge of the sources, even in their own fields. I taught for twenty-seven years at Ankara’s Faculty of Divinity. I know how distant some teachers are from the sources. An historian of Islam was incapable of benefitting from sources because he was unfamiliar with the Arabic language; he was unfamiliar with the Persian language. Someone else was on the platform of Sufism; he could even be a disbeliever. He does not know Arabic. He has no knowledge concerning matters on Sufism; he does not practice but he became a lecturer, a professor in the faculty. Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari had an unbiased perception; he studied a topic, examined the supporting evidence and reached a conclusion. This is a fundamental quality required in a scholar. He had sound reason and judgment. He had a sound method of obtaining knowledge. Methods are extremely important in science. He had an outstanding language skill. He had his native language; the language in which he was educated, and the language he used when he was writing... A great scholar.

He is a scholar who proved himself with his detailed researches on topics that are even disputed today; he reached conclusions with documentation, with evidence.

He was educated as a genuine scholar. He earned his teaching diploma (ijazah) in an unadulterated system of certification. He conveyed his knowledge to his students  with the same devoutness, and awarded them with teaching diplomas. Among Kawthari’s students, today there are scholars renowned worldwide; authors who wrote books and were widely acknowledged in the countries they lived who received their diplomas from Kawthari. These were the people who initially spread the reputation of Kawthari to Islamic countries. He issued teaching diplomas to around three-hundred people, and these students spread this knowledge when they returned to their own countries. Many people fail to understand the true value of university, how scientific work is conducted; the value of a master thesis, of a doctorate thesis. They fail to realize how difficult it is to earn the title “Dr.”, and how difficult it is to earn the tittle “Prof.” A doctoral thesis is a demanding scientific study of science worldwide. It means “I am a specialist in this field worldwide.” In view of this, doctoral studies are important in the world. Irrelevant of the country, they should be collected and read. Writing master theses and doctoral theses on Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari’s personality, ideas, and works is the best indication of what a great scholar he was. They do not issue these degrees to ordinary people; they would not allow writing a thesis about any ordinary person. They would reject this. Five professors examine a doctorate thesis and issue a decision on the paper.

Master and doctoral thesis written about Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari in many universities in Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, and Pakistan, proves what a great scholar Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari was.

He produced significant works. It is essential that these works translated to Turkish, and these works should be the topics of theses. In this aspect, this has also proved that he was a great scientist. He was a versatile scholar. Scholars as such are called, “zülcenâheyn” (double winged). He was familiar with both the apparent and hidden sciences. He was familiar with Sufism and Islamic jurisprudence. People who are engaged with Sufism, Islamic law and Islamic science appreciate their values. He was both a Sufi and an Islamic jurist. This is very important. Some Sufis are not familiar with Islamic jurisprudence, in which case the path of Sufism changes to heresy. Some scholars of Islamic law have no Sufistic qualities; this is contradictory and extreme, this is a deficiency; this means the individual has not absorbed the knowledge he learned. Having both qualities is a valuable characteristic. People who achieve this are known as researchers, versatile. Indeed, Kawthari was such a person. He was a person committed to the Sharia and an important figure in Sufism. This is a point that we must appreciate; we should inform everyone of this.

He was an extremely important scholar in theological sciences. He studied the topic of faith. This is a very important topic. One of the Ottoman poets said:

        Belki makbûl ola noksân-ı amel

        Olmasın lîkin akîdende halel

    (Perhaps the deficiency in actions will be accepted, but let there be no flaws in faith)

Which means: “You failed to perform voluntary worships frequently; you may be forgiven, you may still deserve Paradise, but there should be no defection in your faith.”

Faith is an important science in religion. Kawthari was an esteemed scholar in theology whose opinions were respected. He proved this with his articles.

He was a prominent scholar in Islamic law. Islamic science would not exist without Islamic law, Sufism would not exist. In that respect, being a scholar of Islamic law was a great virtue.

The speeches and speakers yesterday afternoon were extremely important. These were well prepared, valuable young people. Kawthari’s answers were related before hundreds of criticisms about Imamı Azam1 at the end of Ibni Abi Shaybah’s Musannaf.2 Here, Kawthari was proved to be a great jurist on Islamic law, a great scholar, a great figure capable of providing satisfying, persuasive answers regarding a scholar, a teacher of the followers of Imam Bukhari like Ibni Abi Shaybah. Human beings are incapable of using the pen against such a great scholar. If a person is capable; if he is capable of insulting or criticizing, then this is proof of his superiority. This is also a very important point.

He was a great scholar of hadith. Hadith is very important in Sufism. The main structure of our school of Sufism which was inherited from our teacher Gümüşhânevi and which Kawthari followed is embracing the sharia, and following the path of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh). This is a major quality. This is a source of pride for our dervish lodge. Following the path of our Prophet (pbuh) and remaining within the boundaries of the Sunnah is extremely important. As a member, a Sufi and scholar of the Gümüşhânevi Sufi lodge; as a follower on the path of Gümüşhanevi and due to his knowledge on hadith sciences, Kawthari placed great emphasis on this aspect. In addition, Kawthari being a Sufi although he was committed to the hadith, one of the main sources of Islam, brings joy to our hearts and sheds light for those who study these issues.

Therefore, Sufism is a view generated from practicing the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah. Independently, this is not a path of pleasure. Sufism is only true Sufism if we follow the path of the Prophet Muhammed. 

Kawthari was a person who proved this. Kawthari was a valuable interpreter of the Qur’an; an historian, an historian of culture. He concerned himself with many issues regarding our culture. In the Arabic al-Iha magazine, the author refers to him saying, “He loved his people, he was a patriot.” I want to defend and support him in this aspect. May Allah have mercy on him! Fortunately, he had such sentiment. His patriotism was certainly not racism. It is virtue for people to recognize their origin, their ancestors; to serve their own people.“Hubb al-watan mina’l-iman.”3 This is not a factor of division. This does not mean, “I am from such and such race and he is Circassian ...” I believe that this should not be considered a negative form of patriotism. I also greatly admire his work, the fact that he remembered Caucasia. I blame us as people; “Borders were drawn up for us from Edirne, Kars, Ardahan, but why did we forget Caucasus? Why did we forget the Balkans?” I am very disappointed with those who divided us. Our borders do not end at Edirne, Kars, Ardahan. At one time, all the lands where azan was called and Islam prevailed were our lands. Those who fail to remember are to blame for forgetting these places. Remembering is the loyalty, devotion of those who remember. And this is an aspect to be applauded. In this aspect,  I pray for him once again, Zahid al-Kawthari never forgot, and always displayed his love for his people. By organizing this symposium in Düzce, we have commemorated a great scholar. “Mercy descends where the righteous people are remembered.”5May Allah the Almighty grant him mercy!

Here, we attempted to place emphasis on this topic and convey this to the people of Düzce. We have achieved something good and rewarding. I believe that the municipality is providing a great service here. Nations who appreciate produce appreciative people. We must be appreciative. One of the duties that need to be fulfilled in Düzce is our duty in  Zahid al-Kawthari’s village. His madrasa beside the mosque was destroyed. In Turkey, there was hostility towards madrasas, and unfortunately these hostile people were virtually applauded and praised. The madrasas were evacuated, they were abandoned to destruction. Cemeteries were crushed by graders. Schools and  sports grounds were built on their sites. Shame on those who demolished these sites, and shame on those who failed to protect the sites. Those who failed to protect these sites may be guilty, but those who demolished the sites are more to blame. Shame on those who resort to their weapons when a sheep or cow from another village enters their pasture but fail to protect their culture..!

In view of this, the madrasa should be rebuilt as the “Zahid al-Kawthari Madrasa.” The mosque is inadequate. A mosque alone is not a complete place of worship. The Prophet’s (pbuh) mosque served not only as a place for prayers. It was the Ashab al-Suffa’s institution of science, their place of worship. In these terms, the existence of a mosque there is insufficient; completing the mosque is a duty upon the people of Düzce.

In my opinion, Düzce Municipality should also execute the following: One of the main streets should be named after Zahid al-Kawthari. The Istanbul Municipality displayed such appreciation. A street, originally called Sarıgüzel Street was renamed after Mehmed Zahid Kotku, because Mehmed Zahid Kotku was an international figure  whose name will be recorded in history.

A complex should be built there, and also have a library. The library should contain a collection of Zahid al-Kawthari’s works and other religious works. We must ensure his books are published. Reading the works of Zahid al-Kawthari is a duty of our nation.

He should be remembered and respected. May Allah enlighten his grave and grant his soul eternal peace.

Appreciations

One of our main objectives is introducing important figures of Turkey and the Islamic world, and their great works on our history of knowledge and wisdom, to our nation and to the whole world.

As a result, we organized a symposium on Ahmed Ziyauddin-i Gümüşhanevi a few years ago in Gümüşhane, and we received much interest and appreciation.

The people of the city were extremely emotional, enthusiastic and delighted that such an important, esteemed scholar, who is renowned worldwide, widely recognized in the Islamic world and whose name is mentioned in reference books had come from their city.

Today, we organized a symposium on Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari, a sheikh of the Gümüşhânevi dervish lodge, a great scholar from Düzce. The people of Düzce were very impressed; they were so delighted and honored to be acquainted  with this eminent figure who in recent times taught great scholars, each of whom were extremely valuable, both locally and abroad; a scholar who produced many valuable works, and corrected many errors with his scientific articles. They were motivated to be more appreciative in the future.

We organized this symposium in Düzce in remembrance of this valuable scholar; who is famous in the world of Islamic knowledge, and regarding whom many doctoral theses were written; in view of this we decided to present the citations from the symposium to the public  in book form. We are so delighted that this symposium materialized here today.

I sincerely congratulate all those concerned for their efforts, contributions and services in the publication of this work; may their efforts be acknowledged. I thank the authors of the speeches and statements in the work, and I offer my sincerest prayers and wishes.

I pray to Allah the Almighty for the success of the Science Culture and Art Foundation that organized the symposium, and our Cultural Association in Düzce in providing many more prosperous, beneficial scientific and Islamic services.


FOOTNOTE

*  “Takriz” was written in the book titled Muhammed Zahid el-Kevserî Hayatı Eserleri Tesirleri which was compiled of the opening and closing speeches and statements from the “Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari Symposium” held in Düzce on 9-10 December 1995.

1. Tarihi ve Tasavvufi Şahsiyetler (Historical and Sufi Figures): Istanbul, Server Iletişim, 2015 4th edition pp.345-357

2. These criticisms were given under the heading:

هذا ما خالف به أبو حنيفة الأثر الذي جاء عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم

See. Ibni Abi Shaybah, Musannaf, VII, pp. 277-325, hadith no: 36049-36534. 

3. It is unclear who narrated the hadith “Love for one’s country is a part of faith.” See. Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa, hadith no: 1102.

4. This is ascribed to Ibn Nadr al-Harithi and Sufyan ibn Uyaynah. See. Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Zuhd, p. 326; Abu Nuaym, Hilyat ul-Awliya, VII, 285; Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa, hadith no: 1772.

Article “MUHAMMAD ZAHID AL-KAWTHARI” Prof. Dr. M. Es'ad Coşan