The Late Muhammed Emin Er (1907(?)-2013
Imagine a tree rooted in Anatolia, yet casting a wide shadow and bearing fruit that spreads and benefits the entire globe. From Japan to America, individuals found rest under its shade, and were bestowed with abundant fruits satiating their spiritual thirst and hunger. This is a tree that without expecting anything in return, rendered its service to anyone without discrimination of any type. This looming tree symbolizes the life and teachings of the late Islamic scholar Muhammed Emin Er, who passed away on Thursday night of 27 June 2013. His farewell was marked by those he touched from around the globe who came to give their final respects, and make amends for any past transgressions.
When alive, our mentor, Muhammed Emin Er already clairvoyantly declared that his death would be on a Thursday, as it was the time deemed by his Creator. In accordance with his will his body was washed by his students, enshrouded by the simple white garment (ihram) with which he was dressed in for his last pilgrimage to Mecca. Before the actual funeral prayer in Hacı Bayram mosque a prayer led by one of his students, Prof. Dr. Mehmet Görmez, was held. Later the funeral prayer led by another student was offered at the afternoon prayer time. Then the body was laid in the graveyard of Nuri Mehmet Paşa Cami. Many prominent figures from Turkey and abroad that had a deep affection to him bid him farewell to his eternal abode with tears in their eyes and prayers.
Born in Diyarbakır Çermik district, Muhammed Emin Er acquired his education in Turkey and Syria. The exact year of his birth is not known for certainty but is estimated to have been in 1907. Though late to begin his educational training, he displayed a strong acumen in a relatively short period of time. He was distinguished from his peers by his enthusiasm for education, steadfastness, effort and intelligence. A product of scholarship that headed the transformation of the entire traditional medrese educational system, he obtained a diploma in both Islamic Studies and Spirituality that enabled him to play a dual role of scholar and sage.
The educational elevation of individuals via faith was his calling. In teaching his focus was on the basic creed of Islam, basic rituals and morality. He wrote books and gave sermons and lectures on the basic issues that an individual Muslim should implement in his/her daily life. He did not consider it correct that information given to those who do not know the essentials of religion be too detailed and about minor issues.
In dealing with people our mentor also took in to consideration the time factor in modern life. Our mentor believed that since people are in a hectic pace of modern life, the message to them should be brief and to the point. For that reason he usually prepared the summary of important issues to give to people who visited him and also brought them with him to those outside his city when he travelled. When he travelled abroad he used to prepare a short summary of a vital theme prepared in Turkish, Arabic and English on a single page and distributed it to people. He did this to appeal to those who had little time or had no interest in reading long pieces so that they could get the essential message of their religion in a concise and easy manner. For him it was very important to convey his message with the least amount of words in a very short sentence. He sometimes spent a couple of days just to produce a single short effective sentence.
Our beloved mentor, Muhammed Emin Er, had boundless love for his students to an extent that he was ready to sacrifice himself for their cause. He would visit their home, as if they were his close friends. He took time to talk with students’ parents, wives and children. When he went to visit students’ homes he used to present their wives and children with valuable gifts. He was careful to choose gifts so that the right gift would be for the right person. In this matter he used to take advice from others. What amazed his students was that even though he was a man with advanced age, knowledge, selflessness and piety, he would make a relentless effort to make those around him and their relatives happy, as much as he could. He usually gave up what he was expected to do to accommodate the wishes and aspirations of the young and by taking the interest of others into consideration. He for example used to break his nafile (optional fasting) in order to attend a trip organized by the young so that he could eat with them. While at others' houses as a guest he was so easy-going that his hosts did not feel the burden of his presence.
Our mentor had a special methodology of teaching. He followed each student on a personal level. In addition to the group lecture, he provided each student with a special lesson. When asked about this he mentioned the difference in the level of understanding and the intelligence of one student from the other as the reason. For him the gap in the speed of progress among students in education is also attributable to these personal differences. In recruiting students, he preferred to have small groups of smart students that could be influential, rather than a large group with average performance. Because of this he was careful to choose those who were to be authorized as his close students. He even used to travel to a remote country or city to stay for months to give lectures, even to just one such student, without being bored. The best example of this is that he used to go to America to teach students until they were certified. When asked why he, in his old age, went to these students, rather than them coming to see him, he answered ‘’sevap gidenindir’’ (The reward is for the one who goes). He advised his students to be two-winged, to acquire both traditional Islamic education and a modern one.
Our mentor tried hard to harmonize the traditional Islamic education with modern education. He emphasized that neither traditional education nor modern university study alone is sufficient. He advised his students to be armed with both traditional Islamic education and modern knowledge. He also used to say that to graduate from modern educational institutions is imperative to give service to the society that his students were expected to serve. He was also aware of the benefit of modern technology in making activities and life easier. Though very old he was trying to use the latest technology. He owned, for example, his own Laptop and iPad. He used to read Quran and tafsir (Quranic exegesis) from the iPad. He also encouraged his students to use smartphones.
He abstained from things which were religiously doubtful and stuck to those which were definitely lawful. He practiced Sünnet (optional good deeds or good virtue) as something obligatory and he kept himself aloof from those detestable or doubtful deeds as if there were haram (forbidden). When he gave a Fetva (Islamic verdict) or did something, he did not incline to the opinion of one Mezhabe (school of thought). He always tried to avoid indulging in controversial issues as much as he could and performed rituals in the way agreed by different scholars of Islam. For instance, he renewed his ablution both when his body was bleeding and touched a woman. When he performed his ablution he did it in the manner agreed upon by the four schools of laws in Islam. Instead of concentrating on matters of controversy amongst the leaders of the four schools of thought, he gave importance to their agreed upon points and issues. He believed that if the Imam acts like this, people from different schools of thought will feel more comfortable to attend the congregational rituals held by him.
He was a Zahit (abstemious) who did not do what gave him comfort and pleasure. He preferred to sit, eat and sleep on the floor. For his guests he used to prepare abundant and delicious food, but he himself ate little. He used to have nice and clean and dress, but his clothes were very few in number. When he had new clothing he used to give the older one as a gift to others. He always performed the optional prayers of Teheccüt (voluntary night prayer) in the last third of the night. He did not neglect this performance even if he was exhausted. He woke up in the last third of the night and did not sleep until he prayed the Ishraq prayer which is slightly after sunrise. By this time he used to be busy himself with zikr (remembrance of Allah with supplication), pursuing knowledge and dealing with his books.
Before starting his work he asked Allah for the blessings of what he was going to do and to be beneficial to others and for it to be accepted by Him as Sadaka (charity) to humanity. He also opened his book after making ablution and performed a two rekat prayer. In case he had to be interrupted and had to talk to someone for any reason, he did not restart working on his book until making ablution and praying two rekat again.
He also had astonishing skill in debating. When discussing with foreigners, especially non-Muslims, he gave the message of Islam without disparaging their religion. He had a very good knowledge of the Christian and Jewish books of the Old and New Testaments. While debating with the priests he showed the contradiction in their Holy Books. It is known that his intention in debating with them was to show the truth to the other side and help them to accept the truth. When debating with Muslims he complied with the principles and manners of Islam.
He wrote his books in Arabic. Some of his works are translated into English and Turkish. Others translation works are also going on. The amount of books he left us with is as big as the collection of a library. Parts of the works are now being published in Turkey and abroad in different languages, but the bulk of the work is waiting for publication. Even while he was in hospital he continued to prepare his works. He finished writing on the guidance of Hajj while he was in his hospital bed.
Our late mentor has left us with his works in different languages and students of different countries from the four corners of the globe. Before his death, with the intention of teaching visitors of his grave, he wrote a four verse poem on the grave stone in Arabic and translated it into Turkish. He gave his will that his grave be left in a manner that it would be exposed to sunlight and rain. He also advised that flowers be planted on it. May his grave be one of the gardens of heaven and may we meet him in heaven.
By Recep Senturk , 24 Oct 2013