The Ignorant ones think that you have deceased ... while your boat sailed for Allah's sake and reached. It is sufficient that when you are mentioned ... all the praiseworthy actions and loftiness are also mentioned.
Several years before blessed raid of 911, I had met for the first time Sheikh Anwar Bin Nasser Al Awlaki (may Allah have mercy on him). It was an Islamic conference that brought together a group of preachers, educators and youth of the Islamic awakening. The Sheikh's words were about the importance and methods of calling to the Almighty Allah. The Sheikh wasn't speaking in a theorist academic way, but in a manner of someone who lived the da'awah and experienced its methods through practicing and wisdom. Hence, this is what had an impact on the audience and made them admire his personality.
He traveled and returned years later when my relationship with him strengthened more than before. We were neighbors and prayed in the same masjid [al-Ansar masjid]. He would sometimes deliver al Jumua'ah sermon and sometimes I would do it. Later, al-mumineen masjid was built next to his house so he used to pray there and offer al-Jumua'ah sermon. He also invited me to give lectures and speeches at that masjid.
Sheikh Anwar was aware of the fact that the authenticity of understanding (understanding of religion, Self, life and the universe) is in the Qur'an and the Sunnah, so he adhered to the Quran and its learning. In that regard, he received ijazah (testimony to his proficiency in the Qur'an that gives him a scholarly authorization to teach it) in the recitation of the Noble Qur'an of the high level. He read tafseer al-Qur'an al-Adeem by Ibn Kathir, fi dilal al-Qur'an by Sayyid Qutb. He was pursuing for the knowledge of the noble Hadith and one of his many travelling's was to listen to Sahih al-Bukhari. He was given ijazah (a scholarly authorization to narrate from al-Shafi'i school of thought.) in giving reference to the source. He received the jurisprudence at the hands of Shara'ai (a legitimate scholar of Islamic studies) scholars and he was given ijazah in al-Shafi'i jurisprudence. So the Shaykh's knowledge was connected through authentic sources to the great scholars. I have also been involved with him in the seeking of knowledge from some scholars, especially the knowledge of jurisprudence. He loved reading and he liked reading books of knowledge of purifying the self, in particular, Madarig al-Salikeen and Zaad al-Ma'ad by Ibn al-Qayyim and kept contemplating in them.
He read Magmoa'a al-Fatawa by Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah, he was often looking into Sharah al-Siyar by al-Sarkhasi and Mashari al-Ushwaq by Ibn al-Nuhas.
The Shaykh was infatuated with reading and looking at history. He read al-bidaya wa Nihaya by Ibn Kathir, the written history by Ibn al-Atheer and benefited from a-Tareek al-Islami by Mahmoud Shaker. Also he read most of the books of history by al-Salabi and had some observations on those books. He read a lot of English writings regarding history especially about the Crusaders. He was comparing narratives from both the Islamic and European history concerning the events of the battles, the number of soldiers, the killed, the names of leaders and the outcome.
He was a voracious reader. He would read to the extent that he would hardly leave his office except for praying or relieving himself. He even told me that he had read al-A'amdah in one day. The Sheikh took knowledge by its right. He knew that knowledge is for acting upon. Hence, the Almighty Allah raised him above a lot of those who carry knowledge, whom their knowledge do not exceed their collarbones (they do not act upon it). Through knowledge and faith, Allah raises His slaves by degrees, the Almighty said:
"Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge, by degrees".
(The Holy Quran, Surah 58. "The Woman Who Pleads", verse 11)
This was a summary of some of what I knew about the Sheikh's seeking of knowledge and Islamic readings. What I did not mention though is more than what I did mention, and what I do not know is much more than what I know. This is indicated by his vast education in various knowledge.
Da'awah and wisdom
Sheikh Anwar was a public speaker. He was in English more oratorical than in Arabic and his speeches and lectures in Arabic were more for prominent people rather than to the public. He had a great focus on scholars, students of knowledge and preachers considering that he had confidence in them to make the change as they are seen as the leaders of thought and opinion. With the correctness of one of them the whole nation can be corrected. For that reason, most of his da'awah was in the form of personal meetings with scholars, preachers and leading personalities or collective gatherings with the students of knowledge. The Sheikh had a weekly lecture attended by dozens of knowledge seekers. In many cases, their attendance exceeds the hundred. We cannot even compare his da'awah to the English speaking Muslims in the West with that one in the Arabian Peninsula. Sheikh Anwar, may Allah have mercy on him, was of the best Islamic preachers in English language.
Call of duty
After the blessed raid of Sept.11. There were lot of debates about who carried out these events. How those effects will reflect in the Muslim world and on the legality of those acts? I liked how Sheikh Anwar was dealing with this controversy and his answers to the questioners' inquiries about the legal ruling. I remember that I had a dialogue with him at that time about it. I mentioned here what I remembered from his words:
"These events have already taken place and the United States has already identified its enemies. Aggression against the Muslims has occurred and the legitimate duty now is to look at the Islamic ruling today. Disbelievers occupied Muslim lands, they are killing Muslim masses and their leading personalities, they hunt and displace Muslims and their families, they capture the Mujahideen, the preachers and the scholars, they freezing funds of the traders and people of wealth of the Muslims. This is what is happening today so what is the Islamic ruling on it?
The Islamic ruling which is not disputed by anyone of the Muslims is the need of Jihad in the way of the Almighty Allah and this ruling isn't agreed upon weather the Mujahideen did the right thing in targeting America or made a mistake. The matter of the Muslims affairs today should be in working not in debating. Working to fulfill the legitimate duty of jihad and defending Muslims against the people of injustice and godlessness and repelling the infidels' fierce war against the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).
The Almighty Allah says:
"O you who have believed, what is [the matter] with you that, when you are told to go forth in the cause of Allah, you adhere heavily to the earth? Are you satisfied with the life of this world rather than the Hereafter? But what is the enjoyment of worldly life compared to the Hereafter except a [very] little. If you do not go forth, He will punish you with a painful punishment and will replace you with another people, and you will not harm Him at all. And Allah is over all things competent".
(The Holy Quran, Surah 9. "Repentance", verses 38-39)".
Severe trial and steadfastness
Declaring the truth and the fulfillment of Sharia has a price in life. This price is sacrifice. And every holder of the da'awah must have a trial and a test to prove the authenticity of his claim.
The Almighty says:
"Alif, LOEm, Meem. Do the people think that they will be left to say, "We believe" and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars. Or do those who do evil deeds think they can outrun [i.e., escape] Us? Evil is what they judge. Whoever should hope for the meeting with Allah - indeed, the term [decreed by] Allah is coming. And He is the Hearing, the Knowing. And whoever strives only strives for [the benefit of] himself .Indeed, Allah is Free from need of the worlds".
(The Holy Quran, Surah 29. "The Spider", verses 1-6)".
Imprisonment is of the trials that every holder of the da'awah faces. I remember that I asked the Sheikh, why the Muslim preachers are more likely to be in prison than other owners of Islamic projects? He replied by saying that it is so because their work is public or semi-public as they speak out what tyrants hate and don't accept. And prison is of Allah's decree and regardless of the precautions security measures someone has. That won't rescue them from Allah's decree and if that occurred, the Muslim should resort to the Almighty Allah. The prophet (pbuh) said to his cousin Abdullah bin Abbas:
"O boy, I shall teach you some words [of advice] be mindful of Allah and Allah will protect you, be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you, if you ask, ask of Allah. If you seek help, seek help of Allah. Know that if the nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that Allah had already prescribed for you, and that if they gather together to harm you with anything, they would harm you only with something Allah had already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried".
Allah's decree came upon the Sheikh to fall in captivity as the prophets before him and the righteous were. And Allah decreed that as well as I came together with him upon da'awah that I come together with him in captivity. Months after the Sheikh's imprisonment I was captured by the intelligence agents who took me to the darkness of the prison. There, in the prison of intelligence service in Sana'a I was connected with the Sheikh again but the Sheikh spent the period of his imprisonment in the solitary confinement.
They did not allow him to meet us but by using a trick I was able to meet Sheikh from time to time without the guard's awareness. When I met him and I found him more steadfast than he was outside the prison. I wasn't able to notice distress or boredom on him. He was the same man I knew from before. A man with a kind smile, with tranquil self that is confident in Allah and His decree - this is how I saw him. Bravery was drawn on his features. Expressing in words that he would not back down and would not give up even if imprisonment lasted long. Determination was his driving motto. He refused to soften his position when others did through taking the excuse of being under coercion. In the seclusion room, he divided his time between worship and reading. That allowed him to sail in a sea of folders of Tafseer and jurisprudence, fatwa and history.
The US government wanted to investigate Sheikh Anwar so they sent an investigations team. However, he stated as a condition that the investigation should be in the Arabic language and before that demanded a medical examination. Responding to that, the Yemeni intelligence asked him to conduct the first sessions of the investigations and then the prison administration would be committed to offer him a medical examination. Sheikh Anwar rejected and insisted on the doctor's attendance, so the Americans could not do anything but delay the investigations until the Sheikh was medically examined. Later he told me that the reason for his request was because he had a toothache and alhamdolillah the result of this delaying was positive. When investigations began, he was summoned to an office and as he entered upon the Americans, he didn't put himself into accused position, rather he entered the office acted like a boss. He chose to sit on the most appropriate seat, ate from the fruits prepared by the Yemenis to host the Americans and poured a cup of tea for himself. I had asked him about the nature of the investigation. He told me that the whole thing was to find any tiny violation that would permit them to prosecute him back in an American court. It was an interrogation, he said. Nevertheless, they didn't find what they were searching after and they returned frustrated.
A blessing and a grant
Only by kindness and mercy of Allah (the Glorified and the Exalted) Sheikh Anwar was easily released from the prison. My release preceded the one of the Sheikh's by the will and mercy of Allah (the Glorified and the Exalted). I met Sheikh Anwar in the day following his release and we talked about continuation of da'awah, about the mechanisms of work under our new circumstances and about the work's field. He was the same as I knew him before the prison. Nothing has changed of his principles and creed. In fact, he was more sacrificing, he had more courage, more determination and more firmness.
Sheikh Anwar continued to give lectures for the students of knowledge and the preachers. He had a numerous meetings with leading personalities and scholars. One day he brought me some papers containing seventeen questions and misconceptions created by "democratic Muslims" which they use in averting people from the path of Allah (the Glorified and the Exalted). He invited me to write the answers to those questions. In response to these misconceptions and suspicions, I depend on Allah and I answered on question in a book called "Disavowal from Yemen's tyrant and his democratic system". Later I gave a copy to the Sheikh and he approved it.
With difficulties comes ease
We were under intensified surveillance and harassment become more frequent than ever before. Sana'a was no longer a suitable place for us to stay and carry on the da'awah. Sheikh Anwar then decided to move to a place that is less risky than the capital Sanaa. He told me that he would leave and may return later if conditions improved. I was then left alone and it was only few months before I was arrested by counter-terrorism squad to find my name on a wanted list and at the top of that list was Sheikh Anwar. They did not have any specific charge against us and the main focus of the interrogation with me was about Sheikh Anwar. By Allah's favor upon me, I was released but stopped from any of da'awah activities. A few weeks later and after all arrangements were done I was able to meet him. After talking with him my desire to move out of Sana'a increased rapidly and I wanted to move to a safe haven for da'awah and working for Islam. I told that to the Sheikh. After few months, time was suitable for me and I began with preparations to move out of Sana'a and during that time I was arrested again and put in the political prison. In the same time a pursuit for Sheikh Anwar was very intense. News channels spoke about him and he came on the US "capture or kill" list. After the intensity of the prison, relief came from Allah the Glorified and the Exalted) and I was finally free and joined Sheikh Anwar.
Sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki and AQAP Emir Abu Basir Nasir al Wahishi
Sheikh Anwar on path of Allah
After an adventurous journey and disguise I finally met with Sheikh Anwar. We settled in a place that I can only describe as a land of goodness. Its people are so generous that sometimes I thought they were better to us than our families was. A great happiness overwhelmed me. I praised Allah for what He bestowed of his kindness as He has fed us, given us to drink, sufficed us and provided a lodging for us. To Him alone are all praises. I didn't notice that Sheikh Anwar changed a bit. In fact, I was amazed by his ability to adapt in different environments and conditions with calm mood and balanced frame of mind. I did not see him once in a state of panic even when situations intensified and I am about to mention one of those situations.
The failed assassination attempt
One quiet night while I was in my bad I heard the sound of explosions and despite the distance I felt the ground shaking. Later I will find out that US drones had launched a strike. When the time of dawn approached and as the light began to spread, it brought about with it Sheikh Anwar. He entered upon us with a cheerful smile so we all knew that he was the one targeted. He mentioned some of the details of that failed attempt. He said:
"While we were travelling on the way, we felt the wave of explosion near the car that shattered the windows. We even saw a flash of light, so we thought that we were ambushed and under fire. We thought a rocket was fired on us. I said to the brother who was driving to speed up to pass the danger zone and I quickly inspected the brothers and saw nobody was hurt. I thanked Allah for their safety but I wondered how we were affected with such a strong wave which actually broke the glass and shaped a smoky cloud around us. No harm has befallen us, even though we were carrying barrels of gasoline. All this happenings increased my certainty that no human being will die until they complete their livelihood and appointed time".
He said to me:
"We tried to find the cause of this explosion and when we looked up, we saw the flying of US drones. I asked the brother who was driving not to pass near houses in order to preserve the lives of the Muslims. The brother then turned into a valley with few trees in it. We came out of the car and went into different directions. The aircrafts drones continued to fly over our heads and then targeted our car which exploded. Air strikes continued in the different areas, but I was directed by one of the brothers to one of the numerous cliffs in a mountains. I slept the rest of the night until the morning dawn, I prayed Fajr and then the brothers brought me to you".
I asked the Sheikh how did he sleep while bombing was going on above their heads?! He responded he doesn't know how but he was drowsed and he fell asleep. We wanted to know how many rockets were fired on them and he said that there were about ten or eleven rockets. He also mentioned that he wasn't sure are anyone of the brothers' wounded or killed. Hours later we will find out two brothers are martyred and the third brother was injured. I asked the Sheikh privately how he felt during the bombing since he experienced it for the first time.
"I found it much easier than we think of it. Something of fear befalls you, but the Almighty Allah sends down tranquility".
He also told me:
"This time eleven missiles missed its target but the next time, the first rocket may hit it".
Sheikh Anwar stayed with us several days and then left. I wished him safe journey while I was saying to myself: I do not know which one of us is parting!
The Sheikh's intuition about the next drone attack proved to be true. In the following attempt, the missile hit its target. I wish I had been with them so I could have attained a great attainment.
Source: Magazine Inspire, issue # 9