Ahmed Kuftaro

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Ahmed Muhammad Amin Kuftaro
الشيخ أحمد كفتارو.jpg
Born December 1915
Damascus, Syria
Died September 1, 2004(2004-09-01) (aged 88)
Nationality Syrian
Occupation head of the Naqshbandi Sufi tariqa
Spouse(s) Hawwa Milli
Children 12
Parent(s) Muhammad Amin Kaftaru

Ahmed Kuftaro or Ahmad Kaftaru (Arabic: أحمد كفتارو; December 1915 – 1 September 2004) was the Grand Mufti of Syria, the highest officially appointed Sunni Muslim representative of the Fatwa-Administration in the Syrian Ministry of Auqaf in Syria. Kaftaru was a Naqshbandi Sufi.[1]

Biography[edit]

His family comes from the village of Karma in the district of Ömerli in Mardin Province, Turkey. In 1878 the Kaftaru-family moved to Damascus and settled near the Abu al-Nur mosque in the Kurdish quarter. Ahmad Kaftaru's father, Amin Kaftaru, received a traditional education and started working as the Sa'id Pasha mosque. He married first Najiya Sinjabi and had four sons and two daughters with her: Musa, Taufiq, Ahmad, Ibrahim, Zaynab and Fatima. With his second wife, Is'af Badir, he had three children, Rabi', 'Abd al-Qadir and Rabi'a.[2] He became a student of the famous Shaikh Isa al-Kurdi, from whom he has an Ijazah for the spiritual guidance Irshad of Sufi adepts in the Naqshbandi-Mujaddidi-Khalidi-Sufi order. Later Shaikh Amin Kaftaru took over as the head of this particular tariqa. At that time there were many Sufi shaikhs and Sufi traditions present in Damascus.

Classic Education in Damascus[edit]

Ahmad Kaftaru was born in Damascus between 1912 and 1915. His father insisted that he first received a classic education in Quran, Tafsir, Hadith and Islamic jurisprudence, namely Shafi'i Madhhab with Muslim scholars in Damascus.[3] Later his father introduced him to Sufism and to the Naqshbandi Sufi order. He was also taught by the famous Sufi masters Shaikh Ali al-Takriti, Shaikh Muhammad Abu al-Khair al-Midani and Shaikh Amin al-Zamalkani. He also did at least one khalwa. In 1929 he married the fourteen-year-old Arab girl Hawwa Milli, who gave birth to his twelve children: Umar, Fu'ad, Khadija, Wisal, Muhammad, Muhammad Amin, Mahmud, Zahir, Hasan, Ihsan, Wafa' and Salah.[4]

Taking over as a Sufi Shaikh[edit]

In 1938, after his father's death, Shaikh Ahmad Kaftaru took over as the head of the Tariqa Naqshbandiya-Mujaddidiya-Khalidiya.It took him a number of years to consolidate his position. In the early 1940s he supported a stronger cooperation among the Ulama of Damascus and claimed to be the initiator of the Ulama-Association, founded in 1944. In the following decades, he became a charismatic leader speaker with a growing following. In the early 1960s, he gathered already more than 2,000 male and female participants in the ancient Abu al-Nur mosque for his Thursday lessons on Islam and his Friday Khutba. From 1959 to 1964 he made 120 radio broadcasts. Unlike the majority of the Ulama at that time, he was open towards the media and used it.

Abu al-Nur Islamic Center[edit]

The Abu al-Nur mosque was originally built from clay and wood. In the early 1970s, it was replaced by a huge concrete building with seven floors flanked by two 65-meter minarets. It became the center of official state Islam in Syria, propagating a Sharia-oriented interpretation of Sufi Islam with a uncritical attitude towards the increasingly expanding police-state under the new President Hafiz al-Assad. Shaikh Ahmad Kaftaru owed his unparalleled career in Syria to his close friendship with the Syrian President. While other Islamic movements were oppressed, their followers arrested, imprisoned, tortured and often also killed, the Abu al-Nur Center blossomed. It housed a cafeteria for students with 450 seats and sanitary facilities. In an annex was the tomb of the Kaftaru-family. On the first floor was an intermediary and secondary school in the morning and university lectures in the afternoon. In the center was the actual mosque with a huge prayer hall, which was normally reserved for male visitors only. The building also comprised private apartments for disciples of the shaikh, offices, a library and a shop. The building was the headquarter of the most active, state-supported Islamic centers in Syria. In 1987, the Shaikh Amin Kaftaru Institute for Arabic Language Teaching was opened for male students, expanding over the years. A year later a language school for female students was opened next to the mosque. By the 90s, four universities were receiving students from all over the world.[5]

Career in the Ifta'-Administration[edit]

In 1948 Shaikh Ahmad Kaftaru worked first as a mosque teacher in Qunaitra in the Golan and in 1950 he was moved to Damascus. Two years later, under Colonel Adib al-Shishakli he became Mufti of the Shafi'i Madhhab in Damascus and at the same time member of the Higher Ifta Council.[6] Shaikh Ahmad Kaftaru's political instinct aligned him already in 1955 with the Syrian Baath Party. He was said to have supported the Baath Party candidate in the 1955 election for an open seat in parliament.

Becoming the Grand Mufti of Syria[edit]

Right after the military coup of the Baath Party on 30 March 1963, the acting Grand Mufti, Shaikh Abu al-Yusr 'Abidin, was dismissed and replaced by a hitherto unknown mosque teacher, Abd al-Razzaq al-Humsi, for one year. On 26 October 1964, an election committee consisting of thirty-six members, met in the Ministry of Auqaf in Damascus. The Minister of Auqaf was also present. Two candidates stood for election, Shaikh Hasan Habannaka al-Midani, who was extremely popular and had a high reputation as an Islamic scholar, and Shaikh Ahmad Kaftaru. To everybody's surprise, the latter won by one vote and was appointed the new Grand Mufti of Syria. He headed the Ifta-administration, which was part of the Ministry of Auqaf. As such he was subordinate to the Minister of Auqaf.[7] He took little interest in the position, which was degraded to mere protocol and public relations.[8] He remained Grand Mufti until his death in 2004.[9]

Advocate of Interreligious Dialogue and Women's Rights[edit]

Shaikh Ahmad Kaftaru was strong advocate of inter-religious dialogue. He was invited to many countries around the world as a representative of Syrian state Islam. These visits culminated in 1985 with a visit to the Pope in Rome. He was one of signatories of the Amman Message, which gives a broad foundation for defining Muslim orthodoxy.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Annabelle Boettcher, Syria's Sunni Islam under Hafiz al-Asad. E-book, Amazon-Kindle, 2015 https://www.amazon.de/Syrias-Sunni-Islam-al-Asad-English-ebook/dp/B0173I8YJ0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483639688&sr=8-1&keywords=annabelle+boettcher+syria
  2. ^ Muhammad Bashir al-Bani, Al-Murshid al-Mujaddid, Damascus, private edition 1979, pp. 57-69.
  3. ^ Muhammad Bashir al-Bani, Al-Murshid al-Mujaddid, Damascus, private edition 1979, pp. 95-97
  4. ^ Annabelle Boettcher, Syria's Sunni Islam under Hafiz al-Asad. E-book, Amazon-Kindle, 2015 https://www.amazon.de/Syrias-Sunni-Islam-al-Asad-English-ebook/dp/B0173I8YJ0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483639688&sr=8-1&keywords=annabelle+boettcher+syria
  5. ^ Annabelle Boettcher, Syria's Sunni Islam under Hafiz al-Asad. E-book, Amazon-Kindle, 2015 https://www.amazon.de/Syrias-Sunni-Islam-al-Asad-English-ebook/dp/B0173I8YJ0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483639688&sr=8-1&keywords=annabelle+boettcher+syria
  6. ^ Muhammad al-Habash, al-Shaikh Ahmad Kaftaru wa-manhajuhu fi al-tajdid wa-l-islah. 2nd ed. Damascus: Dar al-Shaikh Amin Kaftaru, 1996, p. 77
  7. ^ Annabelle Boettcher, Syria's Sunni Islam under Hafiz al-Asad. E-book, Amazon-Kindle, 2015 https://www.amazon.de/Syrias-Sunni-Islam-al-Asad-English-ebook/dp/B0173I8YJ0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483639688&sr=8-1&keywords=annabelle+boettcher+syria
  8. ^ Thomas Pierret, "The State Management of Religion in Syria," in: Steven Heydemann, Reinoud Leenders, eds,, Middle East Authoritarians. Stanford University Press, p. 87-88
  9. ^ Thomas Pierret, "Sunni Clergy in the Cities of Ba'thi Syria," in: Fred Lawson, ed., Demystifying Syria. London: Saqi, 2009, p. 82
  10. ^ Kuftaro's official reply to Amman Message

External links[edit]