Hazrat Abu-l Fārūq Sulaymān Hilmi Tunahan Silistrawī (Quddisa Sirruhu) was born in 1888 (1305 AH) in the village of Ferhatlar, from the town of Hazergrad in the province of Silistra, which today lies within the borders of Bulgaria. His father, Hocazāde (1) (Khawaja zādah) Osman Fevzi (Fawzi) Efendi (2) (1845-1928) was a well-known Dars Al-Ām (3) of the time who completed his studies in Istanbul. He taught, for many years at Satirli and Haci Ahmed Pasa (Haji Ahmed Pasha) Madāris. His mother was Hatice (Khadijah) Hanim (4). His grandfather Mahmud Efendi passed away near the age of 110. He was known as Kaymak Hafiz (the fluent Hāfidh).
This noble family, known as Khawajazādahs, descend from Sayyid Idris Bey. Idris Bey was a personality who was appointed by Fatih Sultan Mehmet (the conqueror of Istanbul, formerly Constantinople) as a governor for the Tuna Region. He was married to the Sultan’s sister.
When his father, Osman Efendi was studying in Istanbul, he had a remarkable dream. In his dream, he saw that a piece from his body detached, then rose to the sky and illuminated the entire world. He interpreted this dream as having a child born to him in future who will spiritually illuminate the entire world.
On his return to Silistra, he got married. From this marriage, he had four sons born to him: Fehim (Fahim), Sulayman Hilmi, Ibrahim and Halil (Khalil). Among the four, he saw on Sulayman Hilmi the potential of possessing the qualities related to what he saw in that dream. For that reason, he paid special attention for the education of young Sulayman Hilmi.
Hazrat Sulaymān Efendi (Q.S.) completed his primary education in Rushdiyah Maktab (school) and Satirli Madrassa in Silistra in 1902. Then, he was sent to Istanbul by his father in 1907 to complete his studies. As his father was sending Sulaymān Efendi (Q.S.) to Istanbul, he advised as follows: ‘My son, if you study well in Usul Al-Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence), you will be firm in your religion. If you study well in Ilm Al-Mantiq (Logic) you will be strong in your knowledge.”
Hazrat Sulaymān Efendi (Q.S.) continued his lessons in Istanbul in the circle of Hamdi Efendi of Bafra, who was a well-known ālim (scholar) of the time, among the Dars Al-Ām of Fātih and he received ijāzah (graduated) from Hamdi Efendi ranking first in his class, in 1913.
After completing the courses in 1916 at Dār Al-Khilāfah Al-Aliyyah Madrassah of Qism Al-Āli, he enrolled in the Tafsīr and Hadīth Faculty of Madrassah Al-Mutahassisīn which was a doctoral program consisting of a 3 year course. Having successfully completed the first two years, he and twenty of his colleagues were offered by Sultan Wahiduddīn the post of ‘Shaykh Al-Islām’ and they qualified to teach in the madāris of Istanbul. In 1919, he graduated from the Tafsīr and Hadīth Faculty of Madrassah Al-Mutahassisīn ranking the first position.
After graduating from Madrassah Al- Mutahassisīn, he passed the pre-entrance exam of Madrassah Al-Qudhāt (Law faculty) ranking the first position. However, when he joyfully informed his father about this success, he received the following response:
“Sulayman, I did not send you to Istanbul so that you be doomed to hell.”
With this telegraph, his father aimed to remind Sulaymān Efendi (Q.S.) about the Hadīth Al-Sharīf that reads: “Two out of three judges are in hell.”
In reply to his father, Hazrat Sulaymān Efendi (Q.S.) said: “Father, I have never intended to work as a judge. My sole aim (by studying law) is to reach perfection in both Islamic and secular studies.” He earned the title of Dars Al-Ām by graduating from Tafsīr and Hadīth Faculty of Madrassah Al-Sulaymāniyah. At the same time, he qualified to be a judge having graduated from Madrassah Al-Qudhāt (Law faculty). Thus, he gained the highest degrees both in Islamic and Secular studies.
In accordance with the divine decree, Hazrat Sulaymān Efendi (Q.S.) was privileged to occupy the 33. and final ring of Silsilah Al-Sādāt after completing his Sayr Al-Sulūk (spiritual journey) under the supervision of Salāhuddin Ibni Mawlāna Sirājuddin (Q.S.) who was the 32nd chain in the Silsilah. The tajalliyāt, which Hazrat Sulaymān Efendi (Q.S.) experienced, was so high that Hazrat Salāhuddīn (Q.S.) had to entrust him to the spiritual hands of Imam Rabbāni Mujaddid-e Alf-e Thāni Ahmad Fārûqī Sirhindī (Q.S.) for the rest of his journey.
While approaching the end of time, he has become a means for the salvation of people through his endless efforts, taking them from the pits of disbelief and placing them to the heights of īman (faith) and ikhlās (sincerity) and he continues to do so.
Hazrat Sulaymān Hilmi Tunahan Efendi (Q.S.) passed away on a Wednesday in 16th of September 1959 (13 Rabī’ Al-Awwal 1379). Yet his tasarruf (spiritual authority) and guidance continue in the most complete and perfect manner. May Allah bless all his followers and all believers at large with his shafā’ah. (Āmīn)
(1) Hocazāde (as in its Turkish spelling) is a Persian compound that literally means son of a scholar.
(2) A word used to address men, in Turkish.
(3) A term used for scholars during the reign of Ottomans who specialize in most branches of Islamic sciences.
(4) A word used to call ladies, in Turkish.