[Journalist Shafiq Morton has a brief look at the historic visit of the Shaikh to Cape Town, South Africa, in November 2000]
I had been fortunate enough to accompany the Shaikh together with his son-in-law, Shaikh Hisham Kabbani, in the United States in 1998 for a period of three weeks. During this time we toured New York, visited the United Nations and met with politicians on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Also part of the entourage were the muftis of Albania and Kosovo as well as the Chechen president, Aslan Maskadov. These activities were the precursor to the 2nd International Conference of the Islamic Supreme Council of America in Washington.
As the resident photographer I was privileged to witness first-hand something of the essence of the fortieth Grand Shaikh of the Naqshbandi Sufi order, an order that traces its lineage back in a "golden chain" to the Prophet Muhammad [SAW] through his greatest companion Abu Bakr as-Siddiq [ra].
In 1998 I wrote that Shaikh Naazim was a spiritual colossus of the twentieth century. And while his contribution to the inner peace of humanity will never win him a Nobel Prize, it has to be remembered that at least half a million people have embraced Islam at his feet.
His murids (or followers) are said to run into millions and include heads of state, pop stars, and even allegedly Prince Charles. In that regard, I once heard Shaikh Naazim say that he was a collector of souls.
Of this I have no doubt, as in America I saw non-Muslims become mesmerised by his spiritual luminosity. In one instance I remember a crack junkie becoming a Muslim after meeting the Shaikh for two hours and in another, a CNN journalist saying shahada after hearing him speak.