Imam Muhammad Sa'id Ramadhan al-Buwthi (r.a.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Imam Muhammad Sa`id ibn al-Mulla Muhammad Ramadhan al-Buwthi (r.a.), was born of Kurdish descent in 1350 AH / 1931 CE.  He was born in the village of Jilka.  He migrated to Damascus with his family when he was four years old.  The son of one of the foremost Shafi’i scholars of his time, Mulla Ramadhan (r.a.), he studied Arabic grammar, logic, and philosophy with his father, as well as Shafi’i jurisprudence and fundamentals of Islamic law and faith, and after graduating from the at-Tawjih al-Islami Institute of Damascus.

He then traveled to Cairo and joined the Faculty of Religion at al-Azhar.  He acquired the International Certificate in 1955.  The following year, he joined the faculty of Arabic Language at al-Azhar and acquired a Diploma at the end of the same year before returning to Syria.  He was appointed as dean in the Faculty of Religion at Damascus University in 1960, and deputed to al-Azhar University to attain doctorate in the roots of the Islamic law.  He graduated in 1965.

He was appointed as instructor in the college of law of Damascus University in 1965, as a deputy of the college and later on and as its dean.  He participated in many global conferences and symposia, and was a member in the royal society of the Islamic Civilisation Research in Amman, and a member in the higher board of Oxford academy.

He spoke Turkish and Kurdish as well as English.  He wrote no less than forty books on the sciences of religion, literature, philosophy and sociology, the problems of civilisation and issues in the Muslim world.  Among his works are Fiqh as-Sirah, “Jurisprudence from the Prophetic Tradition”, and al-Lamadzhabiyyah Akhthar Bid’ah Tuhaddidu ash-Shari’ah al-Islamiyyah, “Not Following a School of Jurisprudence is the Most Dangerous Innovation Threatening Islamic Sacred Law”, while his most recent work, as-Salafiyyah Marhala Zamaniyyah Mubarakah la Madzhab Islami, “The Way of the Early Muslims was a Blessed Era, not an Islamic School of Thought”, gained wide readership.

He lived in Damascus, where he wrote, taught at the university, and gave well-attended public lectures at several mosques.  He lectured almost every day in the mosques of Damascus and other Syrian cities.  Thousands attended his lectures.  He wrote in several newspapers and journals on Islamic topics including providing replies to a large number of questions he received, concerning verdicts or consultations important to the people.

Edited Transcript of Interview

Interviewer: Are they an accurate, pure, and untainted representation of Sufis and taswawwuf?

Imam al-Buwthi (r.a.): As far as previous generations are concerned, it is not possible for me to pass judgment on them because I did not live in those times.  However, I have read biographies of people such as Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.), Shaykh Raslan ad-Dimashqi (q.s.) and Shaykh Ahmad ar-Rifa`i (q.s.).  I swear by Allah, these people embodied prophethood, except that they did not receive Divine Revelation.

Interviewer: They embodied prophethood?

Imam al-Buwthi (r.a.): Prophethood, minus divine revelation.  In other words, if they had Revelation, they would have been prophets.  What I mean by that is that they represented, in their character, in their self-discipline, in their inner development, the life of God’s Messenger (s.a.w.).  However, since Divine Revelation was not present in their case, [obviously] they were not prophets or messengers.  And for such people, the foundation of their journey to Allah (s.w.t.) was the two wings of the Divine Book and the sunnah, and nothing more.  Shaykh ‘Abd al Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.), when death drew close to him, his son, whose name was also Musa like your name, was sitting next to him.  He gave him his parting advice.  Amongst what he said to him was, “My son, fly to the Truth with the two wings of the Book and the sunnah.”  And he warned him from bid’ah.  So, I do not want to speak about such people.  If I want to look for strict adherence to the proper methodology, it is in their lives that I will find such an adherence.  If I want to look for opposition to bid`ah, it is in their lives that I will find opposition to bid’ah.

However, if you are asking me about the thuruq of this age, I request that you show me a single thariqa’ from among them whose murshid possesses knowledge of Islamic law that is proficient and sufficient, who is aloof from this world and everything that it contains and is attached to it, and who possesses uprightness in his character.  I will go tomorrow to become his murid.  But I have looked everywhere, and have not found such a murshid.

Interviewer: What is the reason for this, respected shaykh?

Imam al-Buwthi (r.a.): Well, I do not know.  The nafs is as it always has been – and I do not absolve my own nafs from this – “Verily the nafs is ever commanding of evil.”  The whole business of being a murshid is a dangerous business.  It is a slippery road.  The murshid, when he tastes the pleasure of leading others, the pleasure of having a following; it is something that is almost intoxicating.  When he sees people kissing his hand day and night, and some almost willing to kiss his knees and his feet; when he sees things like this, he begins to believe and imagine that he has become someone great.  And the nafs is a constant presence.  If such a person has not spent long periods of time in self-reproach, reminding himself that he is nothing, and that he has done so many bad deeds, he will not be able to withstand these pressures.

Furthermore, when he finds his muridun bringing gifts for him, giving him money; even if I did not have an appetite for wealth when it was first given to me, I begin to develop one.  I begin to desire wealth.  I begin to desire position.  I begin to desire humility and deference from people because I am such an important and great human being.  All of this is fitnah for me.  A fitnah!  A fitnah!  And the person who does not fulfill the essential requirements for being a murshid, yet somehow becomes a murshid, this responsibility is dangerous for him, and dangerous for his muridun.

Just to make what I am saying clearer for you, my brother, let me present to you the opposite picture.  Let us turn to the age of Shaykh Ahmad ar-Rifa`i (q.s.).  Now that is an amazing man.  He always used to say in his gatherings, in front of his muridun, something that he would repeat again and again – that he was not a shaykh, and not a murshid, and warned against people looking at him in that light.  He said in one of his gatherings – and this can be found in his book, al-Burhan al-Mu’ayyid: “May I be resurrected with Fir’awn and Hamman if I consider myself better than anyone from among you.  “I am not a shaykh.  I am not a shaykh.  My name is Little Ahmad, the Nothing.  Or better yet, Nothing, the Nothing.”  This is what he used to say.  And he used to say, “The murshidun whom Allah (s.w.t.) Favours with karamah conceal them, just as a woman conceals her menstruation from others.”

Compare between this and what we see from murshidun of our times.  Some of them extend their hands for people to kiss, to teach them kissing hands, and if one of them does not kiss their hands they consider him negligent in his duties.

Interviewer: But is there something wrong with kissing the hand out of respect?  There are many people who would even wish to kiss your hand, but you absolutely refuse?

Imam al-Buwthi (r.a.): Yes, yes.  Why do I refuse my dear brother?  I swear by Allah (s.w.t.), the One besides Whom there is no other god, I feel embarrassed before Allah (s.w.t.) when someone from among the people kisses my hand.  Because I know myself, and my Lord is One who Conceals and Veils the mistakes of His servants.  He Conceals so much.  He Conceals.  I know my shortcomings.  I know how much I have fallen short in my relationship with my Lord.  Yet, He Makes it so that the people only see the positive side of me, and He Hides the rest from the eyes of people and keeps it something hidden between us.

So, if some innocent person comes to me, who only sees my outer state and does not know my inner state, it is true that he does not know, but does Allah (s.w.t.) not Know?  How can I say to him, “Go ahead, kiss my hand, it is ok, so that you may learn proper etiquette,” while Allah Azza wa Jal is Watching me and Saying, “Have you not done this?  Have you not done that?  Are you not the one who sees such and such in yourself?”  This is what prevents me from allowing people to kiss my hand.

Imam Sa’id Ramadhan al-Buwthi (r.a.) was martyred in Damascus, Syria, on the 21st March, 2013.  He was 84 years old.  The report is from here: Imam Sa’id Ramadhan al-Buwthi (r.a.) & 30 Others Killed in Damascus Mosque Suicide Blast

A large explosion killed at least 42 people inside a central Damascus mosque on Thursday including the top Sunni religious cleric in Syria Shaykh Mohammad Sa’id Ramadhan al-Buwthi (r.a.), one of the major remaining Sunni supporters of President Bashar al-Assad’s embattled government.

Syria state media called the explosion a suicide bombing carried out by “mercenary terrorists against the Syrians,” and it appeared to be one of the worst attacks on worshipers since the Syrian civil war began two years ago.  The main armed insurgent group, the Free Syrian Army, denied responsibility, saying it would have never targeted a mosque.  The official news agency, SANA, said at least 84 people were wounded in the blast at the Iman mosque and published photographs on its Web site depicting the aftermath, with large pools of congealed blood, shattered glass and splintered furniture littering the mosque’s interior.

The cleric who was killed, Imam Sa'id Ramadhan al-Buwthi (r.a.), 84, was one of the most senior figures in Sunni Islam and was easily the most important religious figure to die so far in the war, in which more than 70,000 people have been killed.  His early support for the government in the Syrian civil war was considered crucial to Mr. Assad’s legitimacy because the insurgency has drawn largely from Syria’s majority Sunni population.  Mr. Assad is a member of the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, and his closest advisers and loyalists are Alawites.

“He was the most important Sunni clerical supporter of the Assad regime,” said Joshua M. Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and author of the Syria Comment blog, which has tracked the Syrian conflict’s progression from a peaceful political uprising to a sectarian-tinged civil war.  “It is a great blow to the regime and the remaining Sunni supporters of the president.”  Mr. Landis said the imam had been reviled by some Syrian revolutionaries when he came out early in the conflict to denounce the uprising.  He was known for having a prodigious memory, was the author of at least 40 books and was ranked 23rd on a list of the most influential 500 Muslims in the world.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion.  But the SANA report blamed armed insurgents. “This massacre adds to the crimes perpetrated by the mercenary terrorists against Syrians,” the agency quoted Mr. Assad’s Baath Socialist Party leadership as saying in a statement.  “They target everything including the mosques and houses of worship.”  The agency quoted the Ministry of Religious Endowments as saying the imam had been “martyred while giving a religious lesson” in the mosque.  “The malicious hands of traitors killed the great scholar because he was the voice of Syria, the right of Syria and the image of Syria,” it quoted the ministry as saying.

Some Syrian fighters and anti-Assad activists reached by telephone said they would not be surprised if the government were responsible for the mosque explosion.  “I expect the regime to be involved in this assassination,” said Abu Tamam, a member of an insurgent group called the Jundilla Battalion. ”He is just a religious figure and not a state figure.  He used to have influence, but today he’s an extra burden on the regime.”

But others expressed strong doubts that Mr. Assad’s operatives would have killed the imam or bomb a mosque in the heart of Damascus.  “The regime will never get rid of such an important figure,” said an antigovernment activist in Turkey.  “He’s like the spiritual father to Bashar.”

Hania Mourtada reported from Beirut, and Rick Gladstone from New York. Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut.

Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi issued a statement on the martyrdom of Imam Sa’id Ramadhan al-Buwthi (r.a.).  He said, “We have sadly received the news that the great Allamah Dr. Sa`id Ramadhan al-Buwthi (r.a.) was martyred today in a car bomb in Damascus.  It is a big calamity for Muslims in losing such a great figure who was a mujaddid for the Diyn and who defended Islam and the doctrine of the Ahl as-Sunnah for several decades.  We received news that he was planning to move out of Syria and that he began to understand the atrocities of the Assad regime there.  On hearing this, the regime decided to get rid of him, hence he was surrounded by heavy security who limited his movement.  However, we denounce his killing whether the regime did it or the takfiri groups.  People should not be killed in a political struggle especially because of their opinions.

We offer our condolences to his family, his students, and to the people of Damascus and we pray for him and for all who were killed with him, twenty-one martyrs, that Allah Almighty Grant him and them the highest ranks in al-Firdaws.” 


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