The Great Shamil, Imam of Daghestan and Chechnya, Shaykh of Naqshbandi tariqah.
There is a hadith which says that worthy people can be appreciated only by worthy ones. They say, when we mention pious people Allah grants us His blessings. So, hoping for Allah’s blessings, we are going to say few words about Imam Shamil.
Unfortunately, dear brothers, there are those among us who condemn, blame Imam Shamil, say untrue words about him. For example, some say that imam and his murids fought for the mundane wealth. Others say that Imam fought for both glory and power, or say he was a cruel merciless man. Some assert the Imam surrendered and so was taken captive and that was his mistake because he had to fight till the victory.
Today there are people (though they hardly exhibit main human virtues) who spread stir and chaos under the banner of the jihad and shamelessly put their carelessness on the same level with Imam’s sacred mission. Here is nothing to be surprised of, my dear brothers, it was time when there were so called “Muslims” who fought against Imam on the Russian tsar's side. There were several thousand of them. Those who say unproved words about Imam may suffer a severe fate. Why? Because in Hadith-Al-Qudsi Allah says: “Against the one who feels rancor towards My favorite, I will truly declare war.” Those who condemn, blame, have no sympathy for Imam Shamil should recognize their mistake.
The sixth righteous caliph
It is true that Imam Shamil was Allah’s favorite (awliya) of very high level. He was a spiritual master. He possessed exceptional personality whom Allah gifted with lucid mind. He was a very wise politician, great commander and Allah had chosen him to save Daghestan from the faith deprivation. We may say that after the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) and his associates Imam Shamil was one of the fairest Imams. For example, Shu`aib-Afandi al-Bagini writes in the “Tabaqat” book, “When Imam Shamil’s jihad was over, Shariah became deserted.” Great ‘alims named Imam Shamil as the sixth righteous caliph. Shu`aib-Afandi writes that after `Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz there was not such imamate in history where the shariah rules were followed so perfectly as in Imam Shamil’s imamate. Alims say that Imam Shamil’s jihad was like the Prophet’s (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) ones. We know that Imam Shamil also, as well as the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) was forced to perform hijrah (migration).
Shamil was a true ustaz of Naqshbandi tariqah. In “Tabaqat” al-Bagini writes that besides both shaykhs Muhammad Yaraghi and Jamaluddin Kumukhi, the imam was also given permission (ijazah) by shaykh Ismail Kurdumeri.
Some people state that Imam Shamil was not a shaykh of tariqah. In fact at that time streets of the village of Gimri were full of murids who used to learn from both shaykhs Ghazi Muhammad or Shamil. This is a reliable historical fact. They both were on the right path and it confirms the fact that the Imam had been supported from all over the world. Muslims in mosques of Arabia, Asia, Turkey prayed and asked Allah to help the Imam. Great scholars of Mecca sent him letters where they confirmed the rightness of Imam, and were warning that those who would go against him might be deluded.
Allah endowed imam with many features named as “karamats”. There were examples of how Allah punished those who were against Imam in this world before akhirah. Today we may witness the same since it was not annulled after the imam’s death. Why? Because Allah is eternal and even nowadays He punishes those who are against His favorites, including Imam Shamil.
Having seen a person only once he could see if he was religious or not. Why? Because Allah gave him that ability. So his attitude to the person depended on the fact if the person was religious or not.
There is an example of another karamat by both Imam Shamil and Ghazi Muhammad. It took place when a representative of the tsar army demanded a group of mountaineers be given to them as amanat (bailment). Ghazi Muhammad suggested to agree while Imam Shamil was against it. So it was a dispute between them. People who disliked Imam Shamil approached Ghazi Muhammad with words, - How long should we tolerate his arrogance? Let us kill him! Ghazi Muhammad replied, - Well we can kill him but who will get his body to Medina? Ghazi Muhammad knew that his body was made of Yathrib clay (Medina). Each of us is made from the clay where he/she will be buried.
Love of science
Imam paid much attention to knowledge despite of waging war for 25 years. So it would not be right to say that he didn’t think of anything else but war. He gave much attention to muta`allims (students). He gave a lot of money from public treasury (bait-ul-mal) needed for spreading knowledge (‘ilm). Imam Shamil built a madrasah in each village. He freed gifted people from jihad and sent them to study various sciences. The rate of mountaineers’ knowledge increased tenfold versus before the jihad time. One might say that there were hardly any illiterate man left among mountaineers. General Uslar, a Russian scholar, wrote, if we would compare the population and the number of madrasah ratio in Daghestan at that time, we could say that the rate of general population knowledge in Daghestan was higher than in Europe.
Was it Imam’s aim to exterminate non-believers?
Imam Shamil like the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) did not have the aim to exterminate non-believers. He took into account a Shariah rule which was mentioned by Ramadan Buti in the book called “Al-jihad fi-l-Islam”. The book says that the real goal of weaponry jihad is not to eliminate the non-believers population but to fight with only the enmity itself. Imam Shamil like the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) addressed his murids before jahid, “Do not kill old men, women and children, do not fell trees, do not burn crop fields, and if you have made peace do not break it even the peace is with kafirs [non-believers]. ” We may see from these facts that Imam and his murids had no goal to fight non-believers. Also Imam treated his captives respectfully. He respected them and did not force them to embrace Islam. According to historical sources we have, Imam Shamil allowed prisoners to follow their own religion, such as Christianity. Many non-believers joined his army once they heard about his justice. There were two priests among them. Russian tsar’s generals were afraid of it. Their fear based on the imam Shamil’s justice which had been the cause why most of the opponents would take imam’s side.
The great commander
Europeans monitored the Caucasus war campaigns. They were surprised how it was possible for such a strong country with the Russian tsar’s army which destroyed Napoleon’s army could not win over such a small guerilla-like army. They knew that Russian tsar sent twice as large army against imam Shamil than he had sent against Napoleon himself. “There was not such a great commander as imam Shamil in the world history”, writes a famous Turkey historian Albay Yashar. He continues, “If Napoleon were a coal of the war then Imam Shamil was the fire itself.” The Russian generals gave Imam Shamil very high merits. They called him a war genius. They were surprised by his skills in battle tactics and the way he managed to win without material resources, money, lack of medicine and weapons and with small number of people. Tsar’s generals were surprised. For instance, Russian army lost 33,000 soldiers in the battle for Ahulgo while Imam Shamil lost only 300 murids. There is an evidence that the Russian army lost about five thousand soldiers in Ahulgo battle in a day. Sometimes a general returned from a battle with two solders only. But unfortunately there were many betrayers among the closest people whom Imam Shamil trusted. Once in despair the imam versified Imam Shafi’is words:
Those who have promised to save me
Have suddenly united with my enemy,
And the arrows of those whom I trusted entirely
Turned back and pierced my chest finally.
Was Imam Shamil taken captive?
Dear brothers, Imam was not taken captive. It could be hardly possible that Imam Shamil allowed the non-believers to imprison him. “On the mountain of Gunib, in the last hour Imam came up to each murid and asked to fight till the end to shahid’s death. But everybody refused and asked Imam to accept Russians’ offer to negotiate and make a peace treaty”, writes Muhammad-Tahir al-Karahi. That exactly what we should know. Imam was not taken captive. There are other proofs. First of all, when the Imam came out to the tsar’s troops, he was fully armed! And we know that captives come carrying no weapon but Imam and even his murid Yunus from Chirkey were both armed. Secondly, the Imam put forth his fight ending terms that were mandatory for ending the war. And the Russians accepted his terms and a peace treaty went into effect.
The demands accepted by Russians were as follows:
1. Islam in Daghestan must have free development;
2. It is forbidden to spread Christianity in Daghestan;
3. High moral standards be abided;
4. It is forbidden to recruit mountaineers into Russian army;
5. It is forbidden to promote conflicts among people of Daghestani various populations setting them against one another.
Besides these terms there were many other conditions, and all of them were recognized. When Imam was in Russia he was treated respectfully. And once he said: “Thanks to Allah who gave me Russians to have jihad with them while I owned strength so that they could respect me when I became old and my strength has left me.” When Abdurahman Sughuri heard these words he said, “This praise for Allah (shukr) can be compared with the twenty-five year long jihad.”
Imam in Turkey and Medina
When the Imam arrived in Turkey, he was received by Abdul-Aziz, Turkish Sultan. Imam rebuked him for the broken promise of financial aid that he failed to uphold. The Sultan replied- "Shamil! You fought with non-believers for 25 years, how did you survive? Or maybe you did not participate in the battles and sent your murids only? ". Imam Shamil angrily stood up, unclothed his body and the Sultan counted from the waist up and down more than 40 scars. Then Abdul-Aziz started to weep and pointed to his throne with words that this is the place imam rightfully deserves.
In Turkey the Imam was asked, what he most regretted about. The Imam said, "My biggest regret is about those heroes who died in the mountains, each of whom was worthy of an entire army." Shaikh Badruddin-Afandi, telling the story about the Imam, mentioned that on having arrived to Medina the Imam immediately visited the Mosque of the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wasallam). People of Medina learnt about it and gathered in the Mosque of the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wasallam) to meet the Imam. Meeting the crowd the Imam’s first thought was who the first be welcomed, i.e. these people or the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wasallam)? And the Imam went first to the tomb of the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wasallam), wept and said: "Assalam `alayka, ya Rasul Allah!", and they say the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu `alaihi wasallam) stretched his hand out the holy grave in holy light and shook hand of the imam with words, “Wa `alaika assalam, ya Imam-al-mujahidin!"
During his stay in Medina, there was a direct descendant of the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wasallam) Naqib Sadat, a tariqat murshid and well-known ‘alim. He was already in his old age. He was so sick and hardly was able to move that he asked his children to arrange meeting with the Imam. At the sight of the Imam, the old man, a descendant of the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wasallam) fell to his knees and kissed Imam’s feet. Shamil immediately helped him up. The old scholar told the Imam that he saw in a dream where the Prophet (sallallaahu `alaihi wasallam) said that there would be an honorable guest who should be treated with high respect (adab).
Death of Imam
Imam Shamil passed away on 10th of Dhul-Qadha, 1287 (Hijri calendar). Many people came for the funeral prayer (janazah). Many tried to touch the Imam and those who could not do it, lied on the ground hoping that the body of the Imam would be carried over them. He is buried in the Baqiya cemetery in city of Medina.
Also, they say, when the body of Imam was laid next to the grave, it sat up, leaned over the grave, and said: "Oh, my grave! Be my consolation and a paradise garden, don’t be my abyss hell!". Seeing this, witnesses lost consciousness. He is buried next to `Abbas, uncle of the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wasallam). Ahmad Rifa`i, a great ‘alim of that time, scripted on the tombstone, "This grave belongs to the close to Allah murshid who fought in Allah's way for 25 years, to the Imam who followed the path of truth, to the great ‘alim, the ruler of Muslims, Shaikh Shamil-Afandi from Daghestan. May Allah purify his soul, and multiply his good deeds!" Many of those who previously disliked the Imam but later seeing honorable treat by the Russian tsar, the Turkish sultan, or Mecca ruler, and having learned about the sacred place where the imam was buried, wept and made repentance [tawbah].
Shaykh Saifullah Qadi in a letter to Hassan-Afandi wrote: "You should know, my brother!... It's authentic, doubtless and without speculation. Truly Daghestan is one of the rare places on Earth where religious values have preserved, and where the source of light of Islam remained!" Further he continued that its reason lies in the barakah of both Imams, Ghazi Muhammad and Shamil.
May the Almighty make them honorable inhabitants of Paradise. Oh Allah, strengthen Daghestan with the foundations of faith and piety! And do not deprive us, oh Allah, of barakat of Imam Shamil, and extend lives of our scholars! Amen!
The article is the edited speech if Kazim Haji Temirbulatov at ‘Alims’ Majlis held in the village of Chirkei 24/04/2010.