Shaykh Abdul Halim Mahmud was born in Abu Hammad in the Sharqiyya Province, Egypt, to a devout middle classed family. His parents had their ancestry going back to the Prophet's grandson al-Husayn (rAa). His father was an Azharite and worked as the village's judge.
Shaykh Abd al-Halim memorized the holy Qur'an in the village's Kuttab . He finished its memorization at a very young age. He could not join the Azharite education right after memorizing al-Qur'an due to his young age.
In 1923 Shaykh Abd al-Halim travelled to Cairo with his father to enrol in the primary Azharite education. Two years later he was sent to al-Zaqaziq to continue his education in its newly opened Azharite primary institute.
There were several directions that Shaykh Abd al-Halim could have taken at this young age. He was eligible for studying in several newly opened schools for graduating teachers. Those schools were promising in his time, since its graduates were highly paid. Shaykh Abd al-Halim's father interfered and insisted that the young Shaykh continued his Azharite education. Shaykh Abd al-Halim compromised by studying in three curriculums simultaneously.
Shaykh Abd al-Halim's perseverance paid off later. He was too educated for his normal years at al-Zaqaziq's institute, so he studied independently for the secondary exam, which he passed and became eligible for the higher Azharite education. In this jump Shaykh Abd al-Halim covered the curriculum of three years in one.
Shaykh Abd al-Halim started his higher Azharite education in 1928. At that time Azharite education was not divided on Faculties. Shaykh Abd al-Halim Mahmud named some Shaykhs as his revered teachers during his Azharite education. These include Shaykh Mahmud Shaltut , Shaykh Hamid Meheisen , Shaykh al-Zankaloni , Shaykh Muhammad Abd-Allah Daraz , Shaykh Muhammad Mustafa al-Maraghi and Shaykh Mustafa Abd al-Raziq.
There were some public associations for Islamic preaching and youth activities that were present when Shaykh Abd al-Halim was a student. Shaykh Abd al-Halim participated in the activities of two of these associations. These were: the association of Muslim youth (Jam'iyat al-Shubban al-Muslimeen) and the association of Islamic guidance (Jam'iyat al-Hidaya al-Islamiya) whose president was Shaykh Muhammad al-Khidr Husayn. .
In 1932, Shaykh Abd al-Halim graduated from al-Azhar. After his graduation he travelled to France to continue his education accompanied by his wife. He enrolled in the Universite de Sorbonne. In Paris, Shaykh Abd al-Halim stood by his Islamic values and behavior. He graduated in 1937 and in 1938 al-Azhar put him in its delegation to France to prepare for the PhD degree. Shaykh Abd al-Halim's biggest problem in France was the bias against Islam that was shown by many orientalists.
Shaykh Abd al-Halim's finished his thesis in the area of Sufism and the life of al-Harith ibn-Asad al-Muhasibi in 1940. His supervisor Masignon the orientalist left him alone in the final phase of his PhD to fight the Germans. With the outbreak of the second world war Shaykh Abd al-Halim had to go back to Egypt by the way of Cape of Good Hope.
Shaykh Abd al-Halim started his professional career as a professor in the Faculty of Arabic language in al-Azhar. He was then transferred to the Faculty of Religion's Fundamentals in 1951. He became the faculty's dean in 1964.
In 1969, he was appointed as the secertary general of the Assembly of Islamic Research (Majma' al-Buhuth al-Islamiya) . In 1970, he was appointed as al-Azhar's vice-Imam. In 1971 he became the minister of Waqf and was then appointed as al-Azhar's grand Imam in 1973.
In the early 1960s an anti Azharite wave swept the Egyptian media. This wave was topped by a comment of a high Egyptian official who slandered Azharites. In response, Shaykh Abd al-Halim stopped wearing the European costume and replaced it by the Azharite one. He even instructed his fellow Azharites to respond in the same manner. In those days socialist journalists attacked a multitude of Azharites in the newspapers. Shaykh Abd al-Halim was no exception.
In addition to being one of the great Islamic scholars of the modern age, Shaykh Abd al-Halim was an activist whose objective was to retain al-Azhar's reverred position and independence. In 1974, a law was passed that degraded the position of Azharites. In response Shaykh Abd al-Halim resigned from the grand Imam position. Due to the Shaykh's overwhelming popularity within the Azharite and Islamic circles, the law was not passed and Shaykh Abd al-Halim was persuaded to stay in his position.
Shaykh Abd al-Halim played a big hand in reshaping the 1961 Azhar-law that previously ripped the grand Imam position of much of his authority and undermined al-Azhar's independence. He succeeded in reshaping the law and his act was met by overjoy by his fellow Azharites.
In 1975, the Egyptian security forces cracked on an extermist group known by the name of al-Takfir wa al-Hijra after the assassination of the minister of al-Waqf, Shaykh al-Dhahabi. During their trial Shaykh Abd al-Halim was instructed by the judges to give al-Azhar's opinion on the group and he was hinted to give a fatwa that the group members apostasized and left Islam with their extreme beliefs. Although in difference with the group's beliefs, he refused to have orders dictated to him unless he reviewed their thoughts. This stand caused him and al-Azhar as a whole to bear the wrath of media attacks.
A group of devout Egypt-Air workers demanded not to do any work which involved the use of wine. The officials refused and the workers had no one to complain to except Shaykh Abd al-Halim who sent to their officials narrating the Prophet's tradition "There is no obedience for a created person when it involves the disobedience of the creator (La t`ata li makhluqin fi ma'siyatil khaliq)".
In the mid seventies, some Egyptian officials wanted to pass a divorce law that contradicted Islamic Shari'a. Shaykh Abd al-Halim stood firm against it and the law was never debated until after his death.
In the early seventies, the communist way of thought was popular in some elite and students circles. Shaykh Abd al-Halim issued a long list of pamphlets and books that warned the Muslim community against communism.
Shaykh Abd al-Halim pioneered in trying to unite the Muslim preachers into one code of conduct. In an unprecedented incident he made a committee for Islamic Da'wa which constituted Azharites, Islamic groups and Sufi orders. He even linked al-Azhar with Da'wa organizations outside Egypt.
During the Shaykhdom of Shaykh Abd al-Halim a great number of Azharite institutes were established upon his personal orders.
Shaykh Abd al-Halim was the first Azharite Shaykh to publicly call for the application of Islamic Shari'a. When he was confronted with officials saying that time is needed to detail its laws, he established several committees of Azharite scholars for the detailing process, which was supervised by him even when he was taken to hospitals for his deteriorating health.
In 1978, when Shaykh Abd al-Halim Mahmud passed away, his death was so saddening to his fellow Azharites that the attendance for his funeral service was unprecedented.
Shaykh Abd al-Halim was a talented author. His published over 60 books during his active career. He was known to have a calm, tender and sober personality. In his books one can trace the Sufi tendencies of Shaykh Abd al-Halim. His form of Sufism was based on Qur'an and the prophet's traditions in a manner like the person whom he biographed in his PhD, al-Harith al-Muhasibi.
"Abd al-Halim Mahmud (1910-1978) is remembered as the former rector of al-Azhar who wrote a great deal on Sufism. He is referred to by his honorific title ”Al-Ghazali of the 14th century A.H.”, a title he was given because of his unique ability to integrate the exoteric and esoteric dimensions of Islam (which are often considered contradictory at first glance). He became influential in 1960-1970s, the Sadat period in which Islamic revivalism began its rise to prominence in Egypt."
"Abd al-Halim presents tasawwuf as a scientific method that would enable people to comprehend the ultimate reality. The essence of tasawwuf is defined as knowledge (ma`rifa) of the metaphysical domain. Metaphysics is the science of explaining the hidden aspects of God and clarifying his prophecies. He emphasised its distinction of 'mysticism' — he proposed that tasawwuf is not a mere superstitious method, but a field of science (Mahmud Al-Munqidh: 224-233). `Abd al-Halim cites `Abbas Mahmud al-`Aqqad (d. 1964) in saying that ma`rifa is an intellectual realm which neither physical science, cognition (fikr), nor various types of mental perception (basira etc.) have access to. Tasawwuf is the only science that can enter this realm, because although other sciences are bound to human capacity, tasawwuf is not (cited from ibid. 352-353)."
Sufism consists of three elements-`ilm, jihad, and `ubudiya.
First was `ilm, the knowledge of Islamic Law. He emphasizes the significance of living according to shari`a, and stipulates that Islamic Law is to be understood and practiced accordingly. Moreover, he cites Abu Hamid al-Ghazali's work, which declares that God will bless those who acted according to their knowledge of Law — no matter how ignorant they might be — but would punish those who ignored the law irrespective of their knowledge.
Second is jihad, the effort to situate oneself within social reality and to solve the problems one faces. `Abd al-Halim's ideal image of Sufi is not exemplified through the concept of 'mystic' (those who live in seclusion, practicing asceticism). He states rather that [the one aspiring to be a] Sufi must be committed to solving the problems of the time, and gives the example of `Abd al-Qadir al-Jazai'rli (d.1883), who fought for the defence of Algeria against France (ibid. 15-16).
Third is `ubudiya, servitude to God: being correct and devoted. When `ubudiya is attained, ma`rifa is granted, and God showers the believer with Mercy (ibid. 12)".
Shaykh Abd Abd al-Halim's publications included:
- Muhammad Rasul Allah.
- al-Islam wa al-Shuyu'iya.
- Jihaduna al-Muqaddas.
Un soufi d'Occident
(Shaykh 'Abd-al-Wâhid Yahyâ)
traduit de l'arabe, présenté et annoté par Jean Abd-al-Wadoud Gouraud revu par Hanan Mounib
préface Abd-al-Haqq Guiderdoni
al-Bouraq , Beyrouth
Gebo , Le Caire
Parution : décembre 2007
Sufi of the West
This book reflects the efforts of Shaykh 'Abd al-Halim Mahmud to offer to all those who cultivate a sincere aspiration for the Knowledge of God, some useful clarifications of the teachings - as well as effective keys for the understanding - of tasawwuf , which is Islamic spirituality. In this lies the actuality and scope of the teachings of Shaykh 'Abd al-Wahid Yahya, 'a Sufi of the West', a witness and interpreter of the metaphysical dimension that is represented in the Islamic Tradition, through the guardian saints of the prophetic legacy with the inspiration of God.
Récit du parcours de René Guénon, ou 'Abd-al-Wâhid Yahyâ, et des modalités de son entrée en islam, suivi d'une synthèse des fondements de la vie spirituelle et des aspects essentiels de la voie qui mène à la connaissance métaphysique de l'unicité divine. L'ouvrage contient également des traductions, extraits et résumés de R. Guénon sur l'initiation et la réalisation spirituelle.
|Quatrième de couverture:
Un soufi d'Occident
Le présent ouvrage témoigne des efforts du Shaykh 'Abd-al-Halîm Mahmûd visant à offrir, à tous ceux qui cultivent une aspiration sincère à la Connaissance de Dieu, des précisions doctrinales utiles ainsi que des clés efficaces de discernement sur le Taçawwuf, la spiritualité islamique. C'est en cela que résident avant tout l'actualité et la portée des enseignements du Shaykh 'Abd-al-Wâhid Yahyâ, « un soufi d'Occident », témoin et interprète de la dimension métaphysique qui est représentée, dans la Tradition islamique, par la voie des saints dépositaires de l'héritage prophétique avec l'inspiration de Dieu.