Sheykh Abdul Kerim al Kibrisi
SIDNEY CENTER _ Sheykh Abdul Kerim al Kibrisi (Aydogan Fuat), the Sufi Muslim founder and leader of the Osmanli Naksibendi Dergahi in Sidney Center, passed away suddenly on June 30, 2012, while visiting in Lefke, Cyprus.
He was laid to rest on July 2, next to his brother, Ayhan Savaskan in Famagusta, at the Old Ottoman Cemetery, after the funeral prayer in the Lale Mustafa Pasha Mosque.
Sheykh Abdul Kerim was born on Nov. 11, 1957, at Baf, Poli, in Cyprus. In 1964, post-colonial ethnic unrest forced him and his extended family to leave their homes in the village of Alifodez by night to migrate to the walled city of Famagusta in the north of Cyprus where Sheykh Abdul Kerim grew up.
He acquired many practical skills and knowledge across a broad range of subjects, especially Ottoman civilization. In addition to his formal education, as a young boy he was trained as a welder and as a shepherd, a profession of Prophets. Identified early according to Ottoman traditional wisdom as a candidate for leadership, he was trained in the religion of Islam and in Sufi disciplines by his master Sheykh Maulana Nazim Adil al Hakkani al Kibrisi and by his grandmaster Sheykh Abdullah Daghestani; as well as his own father Hajji Fuat Mehmet Savaskan.
In November 1973, Sheykh Abdul Kerim enlisted in the military to defend his family and home city during the Cyprus civil war. He served as a commando around the Famagusta city walls until the war's end in 1974. He was decorated for valor and for having been wounded during battle.
In 1976, Sheykh Maulana Nazim sent Sheykh Abdul Kerim to New York, as his first khalifa and representative in the West, to instill love for Islam in the hearts of Americans. At the same time he served as a diplomatic attaché to the United Nations Mission for Cyprus, before becoming a U.S. citizen in 1979. While working at the UN, he witnessed first hand the corruption and hypocrisy rampant in global politics.
Frustrated when he did not find Truth and Justice amongst the leaders of the world, he became a self-employed businessman, serving and educating people about Islam face-to-face. While he had moved with his young family from the infamous 1980s drug and violence infested Bronx up to the relative safety and peace of Orange County, Sheykh Abdul Kerim continued to conduct weekly gatherings in his own New York City restaurants and shops. At these open meetings, involving sohbet (holy association) and zikir (holy remembrance), he introduced and taught the fundamentals and nuances of Islam to Muslim and non-Muslim participants, adjusting his discourse to the capacity of his listeners.
In the mid-1990s, Sheykh Abdul Kerim established the first Naksibendi Sufi center in New York City. At about age 40, he became the full-time spiritual guide and religious leader for a diverse community of new and born Muslims. He traveled extensively through Turkey, Cyprus, and Europe, gathering students to the Naksibendi Sufi order under Sheykh Maulana Nazim.
In June 2001, Sheykh Abdul Kerim was arrested in Izmir, Turkey, for leading zikir in his private quarters. He was charged with violating constitutional laws related to dress code and religious titles, as well with violating national security laws that forbade speech against Turkish secular identity. As he was not a citizen of Turkey, none of these laws applied. However, he was held illegally in prison for nearly six months under egregious conditions, with no external contact or communication, until his acquittal in December 2001.
U.S. State Department, Congressional, European and NGO focus on his case highlighted systemic human rights abuses that were stalling Turkey's entry into the European Union. While himself in imminent danger of torture in prison, Sheykh Abdul Kerim continued his fearless Islamic, non-violent, outspoken stance on Turkey's official persecution of its Muslim citizens. Sheykh Abdul Kerim's activism then and in subsequent years was instrumental in awakening the Turkish people to their Ottoman traditions and history, resulting in a change of government in late 2002, modification of laws on freedom of expression and freedom of religion, and catalyzing Turkey's emergence as a credible regional power.
In the summer of 2002, Sheykh Abdul Kerim established the Osmanli Naksibendi Dergahi in Sidney Center, as a community of Muslims who prefer to live a simple life centered on worship and the traditional lifestyle of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The center is open to everyone who wants to learn and participate. Sheykh Abdul Kerim himself taught members the life skills needed to operate the farm and to live as a community _ from cooking, to welding, to animal husbandry, to carpentry, to prayer, to conflict resolution, to cheese making, to song writing, and more.
In 2010, the Sidney Town Board threatened to disinter the graves of two Muslims who were buried at the Osmanli Naksibendi Cemetery. Under Sheykh Abdul Kerim's leadership, international and local outcry rallied people from diverse creeds and backgrounds in the name of Truth and Justice to stop the Board's ill-informed plans.
Before he left for his last journey to Cyprus, Sheykh Abdul Kerim designed, oversaw construction, and opened a new mosque at the Sidney Center site. Earlier in his travels around the world, he had opened autonomous Osmanli Naksibendi Sufi centers in India, Germany, Peru, Argentina, China, Turkey, Cyprus, Malaysia, Florida, Virginia and New Jersey, to serve the needs of his local students in those places. His guidance and love reached everyone through live internet broadcasts until his passing, and his talks continue to be available online.
Sheykh Abdul Kerim was predeceased by his father, Hajji Fuat Mehmet Savaskan (1996); brother, Ayhan; sisters, Aynur and Nahida (all of Famagusta); and nephew, Ayhan Hakan (Sidney Center).
He is survived by his sheykh, Sheykh Maulana Nazim al Hakkani of Lefke, Cyprus; his beloved mother, Cemaliye Savaskan (Salih E. Ali) of Famagusta; devoted sons, Ilhan and Mehmet Fuat of New York; dear daughters, Zeynep, Kerime, and Nulufer Fuat; four beloved grandchildren; brothers, Mehmet and Hilmi Savaskan of Cyprus; sisters, Kerime, Necibe, Ayla, and Fatma of Cyprus; loving wife, Meryem Fuat (Brawley) of Sidney Center; his beloved and devoted murids of the Osmanli Dergahi; the deputies he authorized around the world; thousands of friends, students, loved ones, and like-minded servants of the One Creator.
While all will miss Sheykh Abdul Kerim al Kibrisi dearly, we know that he accomplished his mission in this life and that he has moved on to higher stations in the company of the Holy Prophet Muhammad and in the Presence of ALLAH Almighty.
He is succeeded by his appointed representative Lokman Hoja Efendi; and his mission continues with all those who stand for Truth and Justice in the Osmanli Naksibendi Way.