Thursday, 30 April 2020

Lense on Istanbul

Turkey has been one of the world attention throughout the history. Like the other big cities which operate as a locus of civilisation such as Cairo, Damascus, Rome, Qom and al-Hambra, Istanbul too has its own unique historical, geographical, political and religious background. 

The remnants of Ataturk's influence has leave a huge impact towards the Turkey's society which can be smelt through the gross cultural ambiance in general. Despite the excellent service, professional management, sophisticated amenities and helpful society, the root of Islamic tradition is slowly eroded from time to time. 

Unlike Cairo, the classical classes in Istanbul is quite few. If Cairo has a daily classical classes in al-Azhar Mosque throughout the day (even multiple of them is overlap in time) and not less than 30 madrasah, zāwiyah, khaniqah, madhyafah and mosque around there, finding the classical classes which teaches the classic works of Islamic Tradition is arguably hard in Istanbul.

Fortunately, there are few erudite scholars who are invited to teach there and some of them come there as an alternative, good place to live in. There are classes like Tadrīb al-Rāwī with Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwamah, Muqaddimah Ibn Khaldūn and Syajrah al-Ma‘ārif wa al-’Ahwāl with Dr. Heba Raouf Ezzat in Dar al-Kurra, nearby Suleymeniya Camii and other small discussion on mantiq with a great teacher in Ismail Aga Camii, which has a sacred sense of atmosphere in comparison with the other area.

Nevertheless, Turkey is fairly active in terms of interaction and engagement with the modern challenges. We can notice classes on Methodology with Prof. Alparslan Açikgenç (author of Islamic Science: Towards a Definition), public talks with Dr. Jasser Audah in Basaksehir which is quite far from Istanbul and other intriguing topics teached in the universities there.

For instance, in Ilahiyat Facültesi of Marmara Üniversitesi, they delve the topics on History of Philosophy in a fairly deep discussion. The same goes with the class on History of Islamic Philosophy where the professor who is graduated from Oxford or Harvard sketches the sources and map of knowledge in Islam in a dialectical and clear way.

Different with Cairo, which is inarguably strong with the Islamic Tradition in which almost all great works in Islamic Civilisation in all level (mubtadi’, mutawassit and muntahī) is being teached and almost all great Islamic scholars breed in here, discussion on central current philosophical questions has not reach a satisfied level. The problem in engaging the tradition and modern knowledge in a rooted, erudite, deep and broad in its real meaning and not a plastic, sugar-coating one is really a current modern big challenge as what Fazlur Rahman coined eloquently in Islam and Modernity.

Nearby Ilahiyat Facültesi of Marmara Üniversitesi, there is a world rank kütüphane, as great as Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Iskandariah, called Centre for Islamic Studies (ISAM) which has been a locus of attraction among the scholars worldwide. 

The library collections there is par excellence. Book collections in Marmara Üniversitesi only has beat all libraries that I have visited in Egypt (Bibliotheca Alexandrina is the only exception). Library collections in Malaysia is just in between of this two countries. Perhaps the only collection that can stand at the same level is the ISTAC Library which is located on the crest of the Jalan Duta hill.

In Istanbul too, there is also a great living scholar, Shaykh Amin Siraj who used to deliver weekly classes for more than 20 years after Fajr in the sacred Fatih Camii. Whoever familiar with Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah, Imam Zahid al-Kauthari and Shaykh Mustafa Sabri's works will really know how to appreciate the real value of a 'living pearl'. Nowadays, Shaykh Amin Siraj can only be met after Jum'ah prayer there.

Moving to the kitabçi in Istanbul. Finding a cheap, reasonable price and excellent English books is the dark side of the trip there. There are some gems despite the challenging exploration to sahaf in Süleymaniye Camii, Istiqlal Street, Kadiköy, Besiktas and bookfair in Yenikapi. One of the valuable things to get there is definitely the Mevlana Rumi's Mathnavi which can be get at an affordable price and a wide range of translations even in the Malay version!

Hardly digging the precious books there really proliferate the sickness with the wonderful, memorable moments in Attabah, Thakanat al-Maadi, Zamalek, Wust al-Balad, Abou Rish, Ardh al-Ma‘aridh, Darb al-Atrak and Darrasah where I get to know the great hearts and minds like Toynbee, Chomsky, Said, Will Durant, Huntington, Imam al-Ghazali, Ibn Khaldun, Imam al-Nawawi, Ibn Athaillah, Postman, Kuhn, Adler and Muhammad al-Ghazali.


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