Interview with Tim Winters (1995)

Transcript Details

Event Name: Interview with Tim Winters (1995)
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 7/15/2019 9:00:14 PM
Transcript Version: 2

Transcript Text

I have with me a very dear friend and

colleague an American Muslim whom I've

known and admired for perhaps 15 years

now is that the food for the year the

last we first met he's here on a lecture

tour in England very briefly and I'm

going to ask him a few questions about

Islam and Muslims in the West but

focusing particularly on how we get this

most precious of commodities I'm how do

we become scholars or how even nowadays

do we find scholars many people

including I think chef Pham's I believe

that they are something of an endangered

species so how is it that young Muslims

in the West particularly can overcome

this obstacle we don't have proper

institutions of our own so can we travel

to the Islamic world should we do the

traditional way by sitting at the feet

of polymer or should we put our faith in

these great new Islamic universities

that are appearing in all sorts of

countries and I perhaps associate hands

if I could start with that I know that

you've been perhaps one of the last true

advocates of the traditional practice of

a RIF Allah the atala billon we know

that the great medieval anima from a

mammal Bukhari to so many of the great

scholars even in the 19th century all

always spent all of their lives

traveling now they would have liked even

seen her was was well known for having a

thousand camels who have carried his

books wherever he went and use somehow

in this age of mass communications seem

to be trying to maintain this tradition

why do you think that's necessary when

we have Islamic universities why should

we go and find a scholar in say the

depths of Mauritania where I gather

you've been rather than going to a new

university and studying in one place I

think it's it's interesting you brought

that up the idea but I know and it's

certainly something that classical

scholars often wrote books called errata

is then and they would talk about their

experiences traveling and the importance

of actually leaving one's place of birth

in fact Imam and Junaid the famous

scholar and

what they call him the Imam of the to

the five attaining the two groups

because he was both a scholar but he was

also deeply spiritual that man in a

spiritual educator and he talks about

that a man's Iman really is complete

when he enters into a state of Allah

which is estrangement from one's own

land and and I think he's getting that

from the hadith that the Prophet SAW

lisen him said in Sahih Muslim that

Islam began a strange thing and it

returns a strange thing and he said

blessed are the strangers and our Eve as

you well know is one of the meanings is

to be in a strange land where you're not

you're not from and so the idea of going

out is is really you become a hadith and

that in itself is a spiritual station in

Islam to be a hub and what you do is is

attempt to find kindred spirits and I

think also there is a blessing I found

that there was a blessing in setting out

because there is a hadith that the

prophet sal i said i'm said men Sarika

Paria Pagnotta me sophia

el faro fisa BD day hatha yoga whoever

sets out on a path and said ik is so

Luke whoever sets out on a path seeking

knowledge is in the path of God in other

words like a Mujahid somebody uh

struggling in the path of God until he

returns and then there's another

tradition that says that Allah has taken

it upon himself to provide for the

seeker of knowledge so there's I think

one of the wonders for me of literally

setting out was to see that you know my

provision came from places unexpected

because I really when I went out I did

not have the money I didn't really have

the means to take care of myself

and yet I saw just really wondrous

things happen without ever being forced

to ask or beg even though the

traditional scholars consider that

acceptable for a seeker of

sharukh knowledge to ask wealthy people

to help them while they were seeking on

it really never it never became an issue

with me so I I just think there's a lot

of great benefits in doing that it's

kind of setting out literally into into

the world and trusting in Allah and

inshallah with the noblest of intentions

which is to to acquire a knowledge you

must have met some extraordinary people

during our travels Ryan we have any

regular experiences or individuals stand

out in your memory I think we've met

that we we share some common remarkable

people that we've met and and this is

another one of the blessings is that we

are in an age I mean I I like in this

age too in terms of what a human being

is I think you know in a lot of ways

we're 2.2 people now and say this is

human society this is what human beings

are for me is like somebody going to a

into a room with a decrepit old man on a

bed like 80 years old and literally

defecating and urinating in his own bed

and completely incapacitated to say that

this is a human being in other words not

to recognize that it was once a young

man in his youth and vigor and in a lot

of ways the age were living in is like

that it is that the state of human

beings is really so horrifying so going

out and literally seeing individuals

that still represent you know Benny Adam

you know that the Adamic man and the

Adamic woman and they still exist but

unfortunately many of them are literally

hidden I'm saying I only said that

people in a tradition that are called ìa

relates that people will always allow

will always have his head judge his

proofs on the earth and he said either

Aziz Omaha either outwardly

in a state of dignity and strength or -

love more or you know obscured and

hidden out of fear and unfortunately

this is that type of age where

people's adapt their their spiritual

manners have become so detestable that a

lot of really righteous people out of

mercy really to the Ummah have withdrawn

because of the hadith whoever is a

harmful of a friend of mine I declare

war on him and so for that reason many

of the scholars have said that in times

of great distress oftentimes the people

of Allah will literally they'll

disengage from the society until

conditions change so that that for me

was a great blessing mapa has the man

that I studied with in Mauritania is

lives in the middle of the Sahara Desert

and it wasn't just his knowledge I mean

like Imam maddox mother said to madacorp

B'Elanna when he he went as a child to

even hormoz learn from his courtesy

before you learn from his knowledge and

just seeing this man it's one thing to

read about the ancients and to read

about people that spent their nights in

prayer like abu hanifa praying fudger

with the ruler of Asia for 40 years or

something like that you could we can

read these you know had react of

hagiographies about these great holy and

things like that

but to actually see a human being that

embodies that is really shocking because

what you realize is these aren't

mythologies that we're reading about

that these people did exist and that is

is something for me that I think that's

one of the greatest benefits that I have

gotten from meeting these people is to

realize one that the potential of a

human being what we can rise up to and

to to recognize that that that our path

the path of Islam is is a path that

elevates and dignifies and exalts the

human being this is something that's so

difficult for particularly young people

I think brought up in the West isn't it

because the educational matrix here

stresses so much the imparting of

information and the ability to make

konzern into

judgments on the basis of that

information but the idea of education as

being process of osmosis were by or not

just packed with facts but your

potential as allows halifa on the earth

as beautiful dignified compassion of

being something that you learn from your

teachers or learn from your society

that's never stressed monster I've

noticed a lot of young Muslims in

England they have not just lost in many

cases the traditional beautiful adapt

that politeness compassion that way of

being that the metabolism of the

traditional Muslim because of the school

they've been contacted but they've even

lost any access to individuals who can

help them to recover that you can learn

from books but as you well know you

can't really learn Islam from a book you

learned it from a human being a there's

a harbor didn't an Islamic from above it

from the the radiant umbrella of the

Prophet would somehow in 23 years of his

presence took them out of Stone Age

barbarism of the worship of idols and

this crude magical practices you could

imagine and turned them into these

radiant Saints a hundred thousand

defender proceeded to go out and change

the world the entire world there are 23

years just of his presence had that

effect right and on and that

traditionally have tried to be heirs of

that traditionally and pass on some of

that light they've gained from their own

teachers and a continuous chain going


I always thought that one of the most

astonishing things I encountered in

studying with as I occasionally did real

traditional Ajith scholars was this

institution about hadith and also that

which you've almost didn't believe when

you read about it in the classical texts

right that somebody cannot just say oh

this hadith is narrated in Bukhari with

such a narration and it's hadith is

noted by Dale and me or someone with

another narration and I have my own it's

an ad for it and then the scholar sits

down and I've seen them do it but it had

definite word it brought him a whole lot

on his shift will learn on Isha for them

and they mentioned perhaps 18 or 20 or

25 people going right back to the

Prophet Allah Salih - and they know all

of these individuals and you've seen

that chain great scholars like you

number than Hadji RA and the soil to use

their own teaching didn't die with their

death that continues today that's one of

the most impressive experiences I think

that I ever ever had doing my my

unfortunately few encounters with with

real additional added scholars but of

course it's vanishing and one of the

great problems we have is that the anima

are getting old and the younger

generation have no access to them and

there are no institutions and channels

whereby the wisdom and also that this

sense of being of the older generation

can be transferred transmitted to the

new veneration of Mosul

I didn't want your opinions are of the

Islamic universities that have been

popping up in various Islamic countries

I studied for a while at al-azhar

and the Tsar was unfortunately

nationalized by NASA who almost closed

it down but one of the nasty things he

did was to abolish the traditional

system of other education whereby every

student was attached to a particular

shape somebody who have you as possible

making sure that he went to the right

classes that he was making good progress

and also his moral and spiritual more

yes Rose was being improved constantly

every single student in the US have had

a shake on sometimes they were quite

terrifying sort of hit masterly figures

with big sticks and then people are

scared of them but as our produced whole

regiments of scholars for the entire

Ummah who are not just bearers of

knowledge but also bearers of the

beautiful adult of Islam tomorrow that

NASA abolished that and he put all of

the students particularly the non

Egyptian students in this great concrete

encampments on the outside of Cairo

he actually demolished a cemetery and

built this just student hostel on top of

it 4,000 students and they just play

around some of them are listening to pop

music some of them well it's quite

appropriate they built it over a salad

do you know and the environment there is

occasionally they come back with a

certain amount of knowledge but they do

not go back with witness of wisdom and

that the bearing of the traditional

Muslim or that has been lost so I don't

know if you think that that's problem

with all of the Islamic universities or

whether they're perhaps some exceptions

I think that that you know we had a

lamented assess systems fascinating

system the you know the word itself

madrasah is not only does it mean a

place of a lesson like it's the noun of

place in Arabic but also dasa which

means to be effaced you know to it has

the idea of you know data set an earth

are the traces literally disappeared and

part of them at essa was that the the

ego or the nafs was effaced the the the

crude you know the jewel literally what

the teachers were doing were carving in

fact they say a talented sila cannot see


for the hotel the teaching a youth is

like carving in stone and this is really

what they were doing was was taking this

Johar this essence that has the coal

around it and chiseling away all of this

black coal until you have this diamond

this this precious jewel that then can

go out and and literally illuminate like

you said and transform the places where

they came from but the the system was

beautiful in that you had literally

small method asses all over the Ummah

and the youth of the the villages would

study in these these cook tab and would

memorize the Quran and memorize basic


the texts like in Konya and hadith and

even I shot for instance in Morocco and

North Africa in basic fill and then they

would take the extremely bright students

from that group that showed great

promise and they would be then sent to

the major areas of learning like in

Morocco would have been fast so the more

Italians the scholars of the Sahara

would study in the mattresses there

which are now considered these producing

these great allama and they're the first

to admit that they're not automatic this

system that they had was really a

preparatory school for the real

universities of Islam and so they would

go then to fast as a tuna to Clemson to

us how to the nizamiah schools by the

dad Syria the AMIA all these different

or the josiya all these different

schools and there they would after

memorizing quite a considerable amount

of textual material they would learn

not only the a dub but also how to how

to literally take this material and

apply it with intelligence contextually

and this is something that that I my

experience of the the Muslim world is

that we have people that oftentimes

learn a considerable amount of

information it's certainly theirs in the

Muslim world there's much more emphasis

still on rote memorization then say the

Western universities now which teach

more learning kind of theories and

understanding how things work and are

formulated rather than having the wrote

that you can keep your calculator to

plug in but just understand how how the

thing works

but despite that fact what what I'm

witnessing and I I don't know if you'd

agree with this but what I'm seeing is

that we we have yet to deal with the

issues of our age we have yet to to be

able to take the Islamic all of this

massive amount of information and

literally apply it to the age we're

living in in terms of dealing with the

issues of the age and healing the the

diseases of the age because that's what

it was sent down for and I think it's

it's like the story about the student

who stayed with the Sheikh for years and

the chef used to go and he would do the

rakia on the people and and and read

Fatiha and then use his spittle and they

would get well that usually immediately

and when the Sheikh had died they went

to the student and and so the student

read the fact it had then put the

spittle on the person nobody got well

and they asked him what's the matter and

he said well the fact it has still the

same but I think the spinels changed so

you know I think this is part of our our

problem is that the information is all

still there but but the

and women that possess the wisdo