In the contemporary Muslim world, when describing the advancement of Islam, historians can’t ignore Mahmut Ustaosmanoglu, also known as Sheikh Mahmud Effendi, in fact,the first figure, not only in Turkey but also in the whole Islamic world, who propagated the Sunnah and Taqwa in its real sense and through practical ways because he was ‘the man of Taqwa’ in the 21stcentury. Mahmud Effendi lived in Istanbul and spent his whole life in the service of Islam, humanity, and peace. He worked so ambitiously and enthusiastically that it was almost impossible for others to keep pace with him. He was born in 1929 C.E. in a village called Mico (Tavsanli) in the province of TrabzonTurkey. His father, Ali Effendi, the son of Mustafa Effendi, and his mother, Fatima Hanim Effendi the daughter of Tufan Effendi, were highly respected people who were known for their spirituality and piety. Mahmud Effendi under the guidance of his parents memorized the Qur’an when he was just six years old, although he was still a young boy, he used to perform prayers in the mosque and gave great importance to extra worship and non-obligatory prayers. From his childhood, he was such an influential and inspirational person that the people in his village named their children “Mahmud” in the hope that they, too, would be like him. After receiving primary education from his parents Mahmud Effendi travelled to Kayseri for the sake of Islamic studies and learned the basic rules of Arabic language like Sarf and Nahv and Persian, from Tesbihcizade Ahmet Hodja Effendi, who was an esteemed scholar in that region. After remaining in Kayseri for a year, he returned to his home village and studied Qira’at from the most renowned Qira’at scholar of that period Mehmed Rusdu Asikkutlu Hodja Effendi. He learned the sciences of Balaghah, Ilm al-Kalam,Tafsir, Ilmul-Hadith,Usul al-Fiqh, and other Islamic sciences from CalekliHaci Dursun Feyzi Effendi, the senior Professor of Sulaymaniyah Madrasah, and a distinguished and specialized scholar of intellectual and rational sciences. Mahmud Effendi completed his studies with appreciation when he was just sixteen years old. After the compilation of his studies, he married Zehra Hanim (d.1993) and wasblessed with three children, Ahmad, Abdullah, and Fatima. He also married Muserref Hanim in 1993 C.E. after the death of Zehra Hanim, the daughter of Sheikh Mansur Baydemir Effendi, a notable and highly-esteemed person from Qahramanmarash. In June 1952C.E., Mahmud Effendi went to Bandirma for his military service; it was during this time that he met his spiritual teacher (Murshid) Sheikh Ali Haydar Ahiskhavi al-Naqshbandi al-Khaledi(d. 1960) who was one of the great scholars of Turkey, and spiritually a sound person and was knowledgeable about the four main sects and was capable of delivering Fatwa for each of them.Ali Haydar Effendi used to tell his followers who had surrounded him regarding Mahmud Effendi, that ‘there is a soldier here in Bandirma, find him, and bring him to me’.Heeding this call, they began to search for the soldier in Bandirma. But this was a very difficult task, as this soldier had no name, surname, or address.Mahmud Effendihimself explains that “I always had, from a very young age, great affection to visiting scholars and Sheikhs. Whenever I hear of a scholar or one of Auliyyah, I visited them”, and on one occasion he finally met Sheikh Ali Haydar. Sheikh Ali Haydar Effendi had shown a great deal of interest in Mahmud Effendi and he had great affection and respect for him. Those around Sheikh Ali Haydar Effendi, occasionally they would ask: “Why do you give such value to a soldier you do not even know?” Sheikh Ali Haydar Effendi replied: “By the protection of Allah no sin has yet been recorded in his book of deeds.” After completing his military service in 1954 C.E. Mahmud Effendi was appointed as an official Imam of the Ismail Agha Mosque in Istanbul, where he remained until he retired in 1996 C.E. in 1960 C.E. after the death of Sheikh Ali Haydar Effendi, a new era with glorious responsibilities began in Sheikh Mahmud Effendi’s life. He was busy working with the community as an Imam, as well as being involved in the Islamic education of the students and duties of spiritual guidance. Many scholars of the Muslim world took lessons and guidance from him. During the continuous conflicts between the right and left-wing groups, before the coup of 12 September 1980C.E., Sheikh Mahmud Effendi told the people, who came to him, “Let’s perform Jihad, and it is our duty to revive people by enjoining the good and preventing the misdeeds, it is not our duty to kill people”. He tried to calm the people and was successful to a great extent.
In 1988 C.E. Mahmud Effendi visited Damascus, and Syria for the first time, and in 1992 C.E., he travelled to England and Germany to convey and deliver the message of Islam. He also travelled to Bukhara and visited the tombs of Islamic scholars there, negotiated with the eminent scholars of these regions, and debated the different contemporary discourses. In February 2005C.E., Sheikh Effendi travelled to India to visit the tomb of Imam Rabbani Mujaddid Alf-i Sani Sheikh Ahmad al-Farooq al-Sirhindi and various other honourable scholars and spiritual assets of Islam, like Khaja Baqi Billah, Sayyed Nour Muhammad Badauni, Mirza Mazhar Jan-i Janan and Shah Abdullah Dahlawi.In addition to travelling to every region in Turkey, Sheikh Mahmud Effendi also travelled to the Middle East, Central Asia, and Europe in an attempt to call people to the beautiful religion of Islam and the truth. He performed Hajjand Umrah several times throughout his life. On his most recent visit, in April 2011 C.E., he performed a spectacular Umrah, together with over fifty thousand of his followers – something like this had not been witnessed for centuries. Sheikh Mahmud Effendi’s outstanding knowledge of the Sunnah, his profound understanding of the sciences of the Shari’ah, and his Islamic demeanor as a whole have made great impressions on both the scholars and learned members of the Islamic world whom he had met during his journeys and on those who came to visit him. So, Sheikh Mahmud Effendi had justifiably taken up a leading position in the Islamic world and had been honoured with the admiration and affection of people from all walks of life. He presided over so many Islamic scientific sessions and symposiums and encouraged people to obtain knowledge and to act according to the Sunnah of the Prophet Mohammad (Pbuh). The meaning of Tajdid (reviving) is acting upon the Qur’an and the Sunnah and reviving this at a time when the commands of the Qur’an and the Sunnah are being destroyed. As this has been recorded in Abu Dawud that the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) said,“Indeed, Allah will raise a man who will revive the religion for this Ummah at the beginning of every century”. [Abu Dawud: 4291] Thus, based on this hadith, scholars have attempted to determine a Mujaddid at the beginning of every century. In 2010 C.E. approximately four hundred renowned and respected scholars came from 43 countries to negotiateon the different contemporary discourses and challenges that emerged in Islamic thought in Istanbul and on this occasion declared Sheikh Mahmud Effendi as the Mujaddid (Reviver) of the 21stcenturyand presented him with the “Outstanding Service to Humanity Award”. After devoting his whole life to the service of Islam, this great scholar of Islam and 21stcentury Mujaddid left this world on 23 June 2022 at the age of 93 years. Mujaddid Sheikh Mahmud Effendi throughout his life encouraged people to obtain knowledge and perform worship not only with his words but also with his actions; he never abandoned or neglected any form of worship and acted as a source of encouragement and motivation for those who witness his steadfastness. He had carried out many works to educate his people in faith, Taqwa, good morals, respect for others, and knowledge. Sheikh Mahmud Effendi always encouraged people to seek education, implement wisdom and aim for goodness. Mahmud Effendi’s sermons, which he had given regularly for over fifty years, covering multi-dimensional aspects of Islam have been collected and archived by his followers; as a result, six volumes have been published yet. The most original and beneficial work of Sheikh Mahmud Effendi is the work of translating the Qur’an to the Turkish language, named “Qur’an Majeeid”. Another most voluminous work by Sheikh Mahmud Effendi is the interpretation of the Qur’an in Turkish entitled “Rouh al-Furqan”. Sheikh Mahmud Effendi established various religious, social, and charity organizations and foundations, particularly such as ‘The Mujaddid Mahmud Effendi Foundation’, ‘The Marifet Association’, ‘The Federation of Marifet Associations’, and ‘Ahle Sunnah wa al-Jamaah Confederation’ to offer a much better service to Islam and all humanity. His organizations and foundations give service in education, culture, scientific research, health, charity, and national and international social organizations. He also published a monthly scholarly and cultural magazine named “Marifet”. Mahmud Effendi was keen on developing relationships and cooperation, especially between Muslims and their nations, and was in favour of a peaceful world. He has millions of followers and lovers all over the world and was the most eminent figure in the advancement of Islam.
(The author is Researcher at the Department of Islamic Studies, Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University, Rajouri. Views are his own)