He was born in 1835 AD in the village of Kikunu, in the district of Ghanib, in the state of Timurhansuro in Daghestan. Kikunu was a spiritual place, where the villagers kept the Divine Law under the guidance of their Shaykhs. Before the birth of Shaykh Abu Muhammad, Shaykh Abu Ahmad as-Sughuri passed by the village, prompting him to say, “An enlightened child is going to appear from this village. His light will shine from earth to heaven. He is going to be a great Saint.” He was predicting the birth and high station of Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Madani.
Daghestan in his time was known as the ‘Land of Saints’. During his early years, two great Shaykhs lived there – Shaykhs Muhammad Effendi al-Yaraghi and Shaykh Jamaluddin al-Ghumuqi al-Husayni.
Shaykh Abu Muhammad met Hajji Nuri and Hajji Murtaza, as they were passing through his village. They said to him, “We’re going to visit Shaykh Ahmad as-Sughuri, to be initiated by him. Would you like to come with us?” Shaykh Abu Muhammad agreed and they travelled together to meet the Shaykh. When they met Shaykh Ahmad, he initiated Abu Muhammad into the Naqshbandi Order, without giving anything to his two companions. He told them, “I gave the secret to Abu Muhammad al-Madani. There is no need to take the secret from me. Take it from him. Anyone who wishes to follow my way, may take it through Abu Muhammad al-Madani.”
Like Shaykh Ahmad as-Sughuri and the Naqshbandi Shaykhs before him, Shaykh Abu Muhammad continued the struggle against the Russian oppressors of the Caucasus. Although the people of Daghestan remember how hard he fought both physically and spiritually, many of the events that are known about him were recorded by his enemies, the Russians, who spoke about his courage and miracles. After being betrayed, he was captured by the Russians, who placed him under house arrest until he was taken to a high security prison in Siberia. Although he was locked in a room in the prison, Shaykh Abu Muhammad’s guards would find him in the yard outside praying, sitting or reading. The guards then chained him to the wall of this room, but they continued to find him outside. Later he would tell people, “I was walking with Khidr.” On instructions from Moscow, he was put into an underground dungeon, but his guards continued to find him outside. It was later decided that he could go free but that he must stay within the borders of Russia.
Shaykh Abu Muhammad then decided to escape to Turkey, passing through his homeland in the Caucasus to visit his parents and friends on the way. The day before he was to arrive, the Shaykh appeared in a dream to his sister, telling her that he was coming. She told her mother to increase the food because her brother was coming that day. As her mother replied that no one even knew if he was alive in Siberia, there was a knock on the door and Shaykh Abu Muhammad appeared. While they were eating together, he told his family that a ship was waiting on the Russian coast of the Black Sea to take him to Trabzon in Turkey. His family reacted in surprise that he was talking of Trabzon, although they were in the Caucasus.
The Shaykh travelled to the ship and told the captain that he would like to go to Turkey. The captain said, “I have been trying to leave for the last twenty days, but the ship isn’t serviceable.” The Shaykh paid his fare, saying, “Now it will run.” When the ship arrived in Trabzon, Shaykh Abu Muhammad went to a coffee shop where he saw a man called Muhammad at-Tawil, who had been in prison with him in Siberia. Muhammad at-Tawil invited the Shaykh to be a guest in his home, which he accepted, staying for a year until the Emperor of the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Abdul Hamid heard that Shaykh Abu Muhammad was living in Trabzon.
In 1890, the Emperor sent a ship to Trabzon, to bring the Shaykh to Istanbul. After they met in Istanbul, Sultan Abdul Hamid was initiated into the Naqshbandi Order by Shaykh Abu Muhammad. It has been recorded in both ‘Sultan Abdul Hamid II – The Last Great Ottoman Sultan’ by Muhammad Harb and ‘Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire’ by C. Finkel, that “Sultan Abdul Hamid was part of the Khalidi branch of the Naqshbandi order, as were a number of his closest advisers.”
In 1896, the Emperor offered the Shaykh the choice of any piece of land in Istanbul, to build a centre for the Order and a house for himself. The Shaykh replied, “The choice is not up to us but it is up to the Divine Decree.” In the following days, the Shaykh told the Emperor, “O my son, God has directed me towards Yalova. Between Yalova and Bursa is the place where I am going. That is where the sincere Daghestani followers will be and is where the Naqshbandi Order will grow and where my nephew will take authority of the Order.” The Emperor arranged for a horse drawn carriage to take him there.
When he reached Yalova, the Shaykh then directed the carriage to a forest near Orhanghazi, where he built a timber house for himself. After a short while, 680 houses had sprung up in the forest and the place was called Rashadiya, after Sultan Rashad. It is known today as Guneykoy. All the immigrants who came to Turkey from the Caucasus and Siberia moved to this village. In time the people came to the Shaykh asking how they would be able to eat? He stamped his foot on the ground, indicating where mines of iron and clay would be found. At the same time a tree fell down and from these three resources they were able to make their living.
The village which grew to 750 houses with 2 mosques and a school of 16 rooms, was a blessed village – a piece of paradise. No evil or corruption could be found in the village, which included no drinking nor gambling. Everyone lived in harmony. The village inhabitants didn’t need provisions from the outside. There was plenty of wood to burn in the cold weather, they had their own animals and they grew their own food. From early childhood, each person was raised reciting ‘dhikr’. It became known throughout Turkey as the ‘Village of Dhikr’. Each movement and deed that the people made in the village was done with ‘dhikr’. This is why Shaykh Abu Muhammad told Sultan Abdul Hamid, “Light is going to stream out of that village.”
Years later during the Balkan War, the Greeks and Serbians who were fighting the Turks, attacked the village, destroying many homes. Although the mosque was untouched and prayers continued, 220 homes remained after the attack, with many villagers fleeing.
Shaykh Abu Muhammad had been married for many years, with all his children being girls, until his wife became ill and passed away. After remarrying, his second wife had three boys, as he had surprisingly predicted years before. He wrote a book entitled ‘Ya Waladi’ – ‘My Son’, in the tradition of Imam Ghazzali, who wrote ‘O My Son’. He received the power of guidance in six Sufi Orders: Naqshbandi, Qadiri, Rifai, Shadili, Chisti and Khalwati.
Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Madani died in 1913 AD and was buried in Guneykoy, where his grave has been visited ever since by the people of the Daghestani community and the family of Imam Shamil. He passed the secrets of the five Sufi Orders, including that of the Naqshbandi Golden Chain, to his nephew, Shaykh Sharifuddin ad-Daghestani.
May God be well pleased with him.
Source:- ‘The Naqshbandi Way – History and Guidebook of the Saints of the Golden Chain’ by Mawlana Shaykh Hisham.