Abdalbarr Brown: Shaykh Abdalqadir es-Sufi and Ernst Jünger core of the teaching was the question of freedom -I

Pursuing the story of this photo opened the door to many friendships as well as many intellectual openings. Abdalbarr Brown and I talked about the relationship between Shaykh Abdalqadir es-Sufi and Ernst Jünger. I will publish the interview in two parts. The first part will focus on the relationship between the two, while the second part will be about Jünger’s thought and the basic concepts he used.

Let’s start by getting to know you.

I am American by birth and cosmopolite by design. I studied art, art history and German at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In my final year I was awarded a scholarship to study in Freiburg, Germany. Within two weeks of my arrival, I had met Shaykh ‘Abdalqadir As-Sufi. I had always been looking for a way to express my belief and it was this meeting that I started to look at Islam as something viable for me. The fact was that if I had to change my culture, I would have probably not become Muslim but Shaykh Abdalqadir showed me another way of looking at things. Around six month later I accepted Islam as my Deen. This was in the spring of 1990. I have been a student of Shaykh Abdalqadir Sufi ever since. Shaykh Abdalqadir appointed me as a muqaddim in 2009. I have worked most of my adult life as book conservator, who is interested not only restoring books but also reading them.

Why did Jünger attract attention as an American?

It was Shaykh Abdalqadir Sufi who pointed him out to me. I was then able to read him in the original language. It wasn’t easy but I had the affinity to Ernst Jünger. He’s a magic realist. He makes me dream, that is, his work arouses my imagination. His way of thinking and subject matter are close to my heart. Shaykh Abdalqadir Sufi and Ernst Jünger give me hope. Like all great men we can emulate those who came before us and these two are worth emulating.

How did Shaykh Abdalqadir Sufi and Ernst Jünger meet? There are many references to Ernst Jünger in his works.  He gave a speech at Ernst Jünger’s honorary doctorate ceremony.

Shaykh Abdalqadir Sufi had access to Ernst Jünger through his French and the French translations of Ernst Jünger are very extensive. Ernst Jünger had many facets just as Shaykh Abdalqadir Sufi did. That might make them similar. At the core of the teaching of both men was the question of freedom. Both had through their studies and reflections established the fact that the enlightenment was anything but light. In fact the whole of our modern society and all its problems could well be laid at the door of the enlightenment. Mind you we could write books about this subject matter, even argue about it but this is only intended to be a gloss of sorts.

Shaykh Abdalqadir Sufi had recognized this element in Jünger. The question was, what is freedom? Shaykh Abdalqadir Sufi quotes the Waldgäng in the Time of the Bedouin. “The Waldgänger is the actual individual, he acts in the specific case. He does not need theories, nor laws cooked up by party legalists, in order to know what is right. Here things become simple if any purity remains in him. We have seen that the great experience of the forest is the meeting with oneself, the inalterable core of the self, the essence which supports the temporal and individual appearance.” Ernst Jünger, Time of the Bedouin (p. 292) Shaykh Abdalqadir Sufi commenting on this says, “This means that the new man has recognized himself as an in-time creature somehow with a beyond-time contract… He has turned to the absolute as his source of happiness… Such a man is a Sufi and his religion is Islam.” He also said about the Waldgang that every young man should read it. Ernst Jünger breaks down in it what we could call Kufr and he does it precisely. Shaykh Abdalqadir Sufi concisely defines kufr by the practice, “The term kaffir those who would cover up the truth and deny what is true.”( The Interim is Mine, P. 40.)  

In the Waldgang there is an interesting passage where he compares our society to the RMS Titanic. In this amazing metaphor of our age Jünger writes, “How did such a transition come to pass? If we had to set a date to it, there would be none more appropriate than the day the Titanic sank. It was a glaring collision of light and shadow: the hubris of progress with panic, the utmost comfort with destruction, automatism with a catastrophe that seemed like a traffic accident. As a matter of fact, growing automatism and fear are closely interconnected, inasmuch as man’s decisions are limited in favour of technical ease. This leads to manifold comforts but his loss of freedom must necessarily increase.” Our society is on a collision course and the loss of freedom in exchange for comfort and convenience is the rule of the day. You don’t know how many people don’t understand that currency is freedom and digital payment methods are control. Yes, it may be easier to pay using a credit card et cetera but what happens when currency is gone? 

On another note, I’ve heard said that Ernst Jünger told Shaykh Abdalqadir Sufi at their meeting in Wilfingen, Germany that he loved Islam for three reasons. He said something like, “I love women and in Islam you can have four, I love travel and there is no better place to travel than to the House of God in Mecca and finally, I am a warrior and in Islam you fight for God and this is the highest thing you can fight for.

The Shaykh was always exploring Europe’s Islamic roots and this is what he encountered. This meeting between Jünger and Shaykh Abdalqadir culminated in an honorary Doctorate from the University of Bilbao for Ernst Jünger. It was an amazing moment in the work of the Shaykh and it fascinated me. It made me realize I didn’t have to go native to be a Muslim. That Islam was something entirely different to the ideas I had about it, what society presented me with and even the image that the Muslims had of themselves. I could have the best of my culture and the Deen of Allah at the same time without loss to either one.

Shaykh Abdalqadir Sufi dedicates his book Oedipus and Dionysus to him.

The background of the book of Oedipus and Dionysus is very important. The goal of the book is to break down the petit bourgeois family, while calling western psychology into question. In this period the Shaykh was intensively thinking of how he could break the mold of the western nuclear family. The goal being to make free men and women, who could be a positive contribution to the world. That is not to forget that it ends with a magic realist play.

Can you define petit bourgeois?

It means the little middle class, but in a way it means all of us today because from the poorest of us all to the richest, we all lead the same sort of middle class lifestyle in a nuclear family. Extended families are more common in the East, but they are disappearing too because of Kufr. By small, I also think you might exchange the word small for “limited.” Limited in the sense of size and life, lacking the richness of the Deen and Dunya. It also implies a lack of imagination when it comes to the possibilities of life and freedom. Shaykh Abdalqadir Sufi struggled against this his entire life long. He wanted to create dynamic men and women, who understood our relationship with Allah existentially but we are pretty stubborn when it comes to changing our ways.

“Exploring Europe’s Islamic roots” Can you elaborate on this statement a little? Because it is an issue that European Muslims are discussing today. basis of identity discussions.

Well, and exchanging a text about this is by far not enough, but the Church has covered up a great deal about the transactions between the Muslims and the Europeans. The Shaykh researched and uncovered a great deal of positive relations between the two, in particular among the Germans. The earliest being the influences of futuwa—chivalry for a lack of better translation—on Europe’s own development of chivalry. This is covered in the Shaykh’s work “The Interim is Mine.” The Shaykh writes, “So it was that with all the inevitable meetings between Muslims and christians caused by the bloody and futile adventures of Crusading, slowly, battle by battle, encounter by encounter the European structuralist super-state of Papal Christendom was infiltrated and taught the lessons of Islamic brotherhood and leadership. The result was that by the time of the Tudor Dynasty there was a deep and utterly aware intellectual grasp of Islam both as Deen and as social nexus, as can be witnessed in the delightfully ambiguous loyalty to both religions in the plays of Christopher Marlowe.” And “Chivalry began and evolved [In Europe] as a uniquely secular organizational procedure which after its triumphant flowering was to see its demise caused by the Church’s infiltration and eventual deconstruction of it.” With this the Shaykh gives a viewpoint that is opposite the most common European interpretations of European and Muslim relations. It is by the way something that the European Right still gets wrong today, much to their own detriment.

Goethe is perhaps the greatest friend of Islam in the later period with Shaykh Abdalqadir publishing a Fatwa on Goethe as a Muslim. Just one quote of many, Goethe said and this shows you how much he understood, “If Islam means submission to God, then we all live and die in Islam.” He’s right and with that he’s encapsulated Tawhid in one sentence. There is also a lot more to be said but the Shaykh’s passion and his scintillating intellect uncovered the Islamic roots in Europe causing many people to become Muslim by his dawa. 

Alhamdulillah wa shukrulillah that I met Shaykh Abdalqadir Sufi, which was far better for me than the world and everything in it. Abu Bakr Rieger a longtime companion of the Shayhkh and mine, told a story about meeting Ernst Jünger at the Bilbao conference. Of course he was deeply impressed by meeting Ernst Jünger there. Jünger was German after all and from his own culture. So he thought why not follow him? Yet he realized that there was nothing he could follow with Ernst Jünger. He didn’t offer leadership, those days were long gone for Ernst Jünger. Whereas Shaykh Abdalqadir Sufi offered not only leadership but companionship and also a complete way of life with the Deen.

The conservative revolutionaries in Europe failed to protect their national and religious values. Today Europe has evolved into a very different place. 

This is essential and is the problem with the whole conservative revolution. There is no Deen in the Conservative Revolution because even the Europeans had rejected the Church and all it entails. Rightly so, but they could only turn one direction and that was to the last revelation of Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him.And of course they would have to think in a radically different way. It would mean that all Europe had built upon was false.It would require the wholesale rejection of the Church as an institution. Of course there had been attempts to jettison the Church, with various movements within Europe, none succeeded until the Enlightenment and any historian can see what that brought. Now after we have entered the depths of nihilism, Ernst Jünger mentions a counter movement in an essay called “Prognosis”, “Admitedly these two hudred years represent a tiny segment or only an interlude compared with the times in which the divine was honored… Nietzsche’s ‘God is Dead’ can only mean that the epochal understanding is not sufficient. Furthermore the author contradicts himself with the ‘eternal return.” Jünger indicates that there is an immanent return seen even from the perspective of Nietzsche. This would be for us the sun rising in the West. The return of the Divine to it rightful place within the culture of Western Society. Shaykh Abdalqadir Sufi did a great deal of ground work to make this possible, while the conservative thinkers were only occupied with the conservation of Europe and its values, they did not realize that the European values they wanted to save were found and rejuvenated in the Deen. I think that Ernst Jünger understood this, and even published Shayk Umar Vadillo’s letter in his diaries as a sign of this. 

This is a translation of the letter:


This speaks for itself. It amazing that Ernst Jünger published it.

Click to read second part.

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