Life is strange.
Mostly I do my best to avoid politics in both the martial arts and Sufism, though there is plenty to be found in both. Sometimes it seems to come looking for me though.
When it does, I have to decide what to do, what kind of response will be both effective and honorable. Usually it will involve ignoring whoever thinks that there might be some advantage to choosing me off.
Sometimes though someone will do something so reprehensible that a more active response is warranted.
Yesterday I discovered such a case.
If you read the comments sections to my entries, you may have noticed that Bobbe Edmonds was trying to get hold of me, as it turned out he had quite a story to tell.
It seems that some fellow tried to become his student under false pretenses in order to attempt to "convert" him to Islam, talk him into joining a branch of the Haqqani-Naqshbandi Sufi order and become the Student of a Silat teacher in Michigan who styles himself Shaykh Bapak Waleed. (Elder-Mister-Waleed).
This in itself would be strange enough but the way this fellow chose to try to convince Bobbe how valuable what he was offering was by denigrating me.
Now this is rather odd because Bobbe is not now nor has he ever been my student, but the person in question seemed to focus on my many failings as a Muslim, a Sufi and a Pesilat as the way to convince Bobbe that he should put himself under Waleed's care.
Is this starting to sound bizarre to you? It sure does to me.
So Waleed, by sending his minion to slander me to Bobbe, attacked a personal relationship and an important one, because the healthiest relationships are found in one's peer group, because the communication will be "horizontal" rather than the vertical communication found in the teacher/student relationship.
I mention this because it is possible that Waleed does not have any "horizontal" relationships. If you examine his website it is apparent that his identity is tied to being seen as a "teacher" and a "Spiritual guide". The focus of the site is very much on him rather than his art. This can be indicative of a particular kind of damaged personality that is not capable of tolerating any relationship that is not in a hierarchy (preferably with them at the top). This pathology prevents any real connection with other people and allows the individual to justify all manner of unethical behavior. The whole "God is on our side" mentality often comes out of sort of situation. This is also how cults develop.
So what we have is two people, neither of whom know me, neither of whom have spent any significant time with me (I met Waleed twice several years ago for a total of maybe a couple of hours in social situations. This Gerpinski fellow claims to have had meaningful contact with me at a seminar I attended back in 03, but I do not remember him at all, and the events he describes are fabricated).
So what does one do in a case like this? As I mentioned, I usually just ignore them. In this case though, not only was I attacked but these people felt the need to drag my Teacher's name into this and attempt to drag him down as well. I find this to be something a bit more deserving of action. He does not know these people and does not deserve to be dragged into their need to seek out students through false pretenses.
What I did was send him this letter, which I include unedited.
(with comments to follow)
Salaam Alaykum Waleed,
While it has been several years since we have met, and then only for a few hours, it seems that you and I have a problem.
A man claiming to be a senior student of yours by the name of Bill Gerpinski (sp?), has recently visited a friend of mine, Guru Bobbe Edmonds, and for reasons best known to you and him, I seem to have been a major topic of conversation.
This in itself would have been strange enough as I do not know this person, and you and I have spent no more than a couple hours in each other's company, but it is even more troubling as your student seems to have done nothing more than engage in slander and backbiting about me and others while aggrandizing you and your teacher at the expense of everyone else.
Your student has claimed that I am not a true Muslim, not a true Sufi, that my Shaykh is not a true Shaykh, and that your student had to school me in how to make wudhu at a seminar I attended with another teacher as well as a whole slew of other pathetic slander. The purpose of this seems to have been to convince Bobbe that he should become a Muslim, join the Haqqani-Naqqshbandi and become your student, so that he could receive all manner of "special" teachings.
I have to say that I am rather appalled at your student's idea of Dawa.
Usually I would have dismissed the rather bizarre actions of your student as nothing more than the sort of deranged behavior that has always been found in the underbelly of the martial arts and not something having anything to do with you, but frankly, Shaykh Nazim's students have had a longstanding and well deserved reputation for bad-mouthing the Shaykhs of other orders behind their backs in an attempt to convince their students to leave their teachers and become the murids of Shaykh Nazim or Shaykh Hisham. So I can only assume, in light of history that your student did these reprehensible things with your knowledge and at your request.
This sort of slander does not represent Islam, Sufism, or Silat well, and the need to go fishing for students is frankly a pathological behavior, one found more often with cultists rather than those who claim to follow the Sufi path.
The oddest thing about this though is that Bobbe has never been my student, or the student of my Shaykh, though I am happy to consider him a good friend, so slandering me to him would seem rather pointless.
I have pondered on what to do about this, usually when people speak ill of me behind my back I just ignore it as it only shows the character of the speaker. In this case though, since your student has chosen to attack not only me, but my Shaykh and my art I feel that a more positive action needs to be taken.
So what I am going to do is make all of this very public. I am going to make sure that every possible person involved in Sufism, Islam and Silat knows what your student did and why. Then anyone who cares can judge between you and I in the light of day rather than the shadows.
It is because of actions like those of your student that the Prophet (saws) said "Backbiting is worse than adultery" and why we are instructed in the Quran to "Take refuge in Allah from the whisperer who whispers in the dark".
So it is out in the open and it is up to you how to deal with the bad behavior of your student, I have hopes that the world will be watching.
As to the slanders themselves, Allah is the judge.
Mushtaq Ali al Ansari
Senior Instructor Silat Zulfikari
by the grace of Shaykh Taner Ansari
I suspected that I would have gotten one of two responses from a letter like this. Either a "Gee I didn't know about this and you can expect a public apology from my student" or a "Fuck you". But I was wrong.
The reply I got back is rather random and defiantly affected.
I guess he may have been trying to pull the old "I am spiritual and mysterious" card, not realizing that I am much too old and cynical to buy into that bit of cow droppings.
It does tell me however that there is a definite lack of ethics here as well as an inability to operate at the most basic effective levels of human communication.
I include his reply here in red as well as the response I sent back to him
Salaam Alaykum Waleed,
Bapak Waleed wrote:
Assalamu Alaikum wr. wb.
Ramadan Muhbarak Mushtaq Ali
May the blessings of Ramadan be upon you and Allah S. A. forgive us all...
It is wise not to look at a student and judge the shaykh for you will fall into heavy burdens and troubles that are beyond your control and carry a heavy penalty... yet look better at the Shaykh and not the murid, the teacher and not the student ...for we all are unperfect and cannot even walk in the shadows of our Shaykhs...
According to Whom?
For myself I have always found that the behavior of a student is a reflection of the teacher. If This fellow is your student and he speaks for you as he claims (and as I notice that you do not deny that he speaks for you I take it to be the case). Then by the adab that you claim to follow you are indeed responsible for his words and actions in his name, just as Shaykh Nazim is responsible for yours. That is the old Silat way that you say you follow.
I have noticed though that when the Haqqani Naqshbandis have been confronted by the bad behavior of their students this "don't hold the teacher responsible for what they tell their students to do" attitude is always what is given as an excuse. I'm sorry but that just doesn't work for me.
Being as you are the one who seems to have fostered this bad adab I would suggest you worry about your own "heavy penalty".
As you indicated we haven't had any such exchange and this isn't about students. it's about one who you've been in contact with which is the one person in question as a student.
I know it is possible for you to construct a straight forward sentence, I've heard you do it before, so I guess you are attempting to be obscure here. Let me speak plainly since you do not choose to.
Your student claims to have been speaking for you and acting as your representative. You do not deny this. Your student has indulged in slander and backbiting. As your representative I hold you accountable for the actions he has done in your name.
Even your friend and I haven't had any such conversations...
No one has claimed that you did, we are speaking of your representative here.
Allah knows the Truth and is the Judge ....So now who becomes the Judge and is to back bite, that is the question...
No it is not the question. You have chosen to slander me through a khalifa, I have confronted you directly on the matter, you have chosen to act in secret, I have brought this matter out into the open so that anyone who cares can judge what kind of people we are. So indeed, let Allah judge.
May the Baraka of Allah and our Great Prophet serve as an example and the guidance of our Shaykh be understood with the proper spiritual understanding of their guidance/teachings...
And may you find the courage to speak the truth, and the wisdom to act from the guidance of the prophet (saws) rather than the appetite's of your ego.
You and I could have gone our whole lives without a bad word between us and you would have been no worse for it. The need to raise your self by attempting to denigrate others is a sign of immaturity, you may want to consider this.
As I said in my last note to you, the best way I know of to deal with someone who slanders me behind my back is to shine a very bright light on the situation. Backbiting, like something slimy found under a rock, tends to die in the light of day, so you will find me writing about this on my blog and making sure that a great many people know what has happened. I have always found it a bit strange that I have a voice in the martial arts community being as I do not think of myself as anyone special and do not claim to have any "secret teachings", just hard work to become a good martial artist and good person. But as it happens, I do, so check http://tracelesswarrior.blogspot.com in a couple of hours for my first installment.
Wassalamu Alaikum wr. wb.
Mushtaq Ali al Ansari
Senior Instructor Silat Zulfikari
by the grace of Shaykh Taner Ansari
The constant use of the passive voice is a sign of poor writing skills and tends to make people think you are weak, insecure and avoiding the issue.
At this point I have gotten no reply, and I don't really expect one since he did not over-awe me with the profound spiritual state from which he operates.
So what am I going to do? I am going to make sure that everyone I know in both the martial arts and Sufi communities (and I have been around for a very long time and know a whole lot of people) Know what waleed and his student have done. I don't really care what conclusions people draw from this as long as everything is out in the open.
I especially want people who are looking for a Silat teacher or who are thinking about attending a seminar to know what kind of people they are dealing with. There are cults that are based in the martial arts and cults that are based in Sufism, and in this one case perhaps a cult based in both that promises hidden teachings but attempts to draw people to it through tactics that would embarrass Carl Rove.
International Silat Federation
Seni Silat Haqq
Shaykh Bapak Waleed