The Influence of Moroccan Tasawwuf in Africa

mawsim 2017

Kela’at Mguna, Tinghir, Morocco

Saturday, 29th April 2017

I have been honoured by our Shaykh Mawlay Murtada al-Bumashuli to talk to you today about the influence of Tasawwuf orginating in Morocco on other parts of Africa, and while I do not feel able to fulfill the task and my knowledge is limited, for the murid the Shaykh knows better, and I ask Allah to bring to my heart and intellect what will fulfil his intention and my obligation.

I am not a scholar so what I say to you is generally from personal experience and therefore limited in its scope. I have no cultural background in the deen of Islam, coming from Britain and my knowledge of this matter begins in the late 1960’s with my connection to Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi, then the muqaddim of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib, who was situated in Maknes.

Morocco and the fuqara of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib in his Maknes zawiyyah was the immediate connection for the nascent Muslim community around muqaddim Abdalqadir in London. For us this is where the INFLUENCE of Moroccan tasawwuf begins.

In the spring of 1971 a small group of English and American converts to Islam, all connected to Shaykh ibn al-Habib through bayaa’ to his muqaddim, knowing almost nothing of what they had embarked upon, arrived at the zawiyyah in Maknes for what was to be the last mawsim of the Shaykh al-Kamil. These few innocents were submerged in a sea of the great Shaykh’s fuqara, many awlia among them, not the least of whom was the formidable Muhammad al-Basiri, Shaykh Murtada’s noble father.

We were in an unknown culture, quite different from our own, dislocated from anything familiar, a perfect target for the mercy, sweetness, generosity and knowledge of the Moroccan fuqara and faqiraat. During that magnificent occasion our hearts were filled with a certainty that this was what life was all about.

We naturally perceive the progression of the deen from the establishment of Islam to its deepening through Iman and completion in Ihsan, but experientially for us it seemed to be the other way around. The men and women around us were the products of the Tariqah as-Sufiyyah; we were drowning in the presence of awlia, a presence that washed away our insignificant, ignorant concerns, fears and fantasies. It was a light that entered our hearts and we could not resist. We collapsed in tears, succumbed to sickness and basked in wonder and this experience was consolidated over the next six years when we returned to the ongoing mawsim of the late Shaykh led by Sidi Fudul al-Huwari.

I do not know what prompted Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi to go looking for a shaykh in Morocco as opposed to anywhere else in the Muslim world, but now, after travelling extensively in the Muslim world, I cannot imagine going anywhere else to access the purity of the teaching we received.

Our Rasul, left us the Book and his implementation of it, and although nothing needs adding to that, the necessity of the access to their realities and practice for those alive at any given time and place is a task that has to be continually fulfilled, and Tasawwuf has taken a central role since the beginning of this matter.

There is no Tasawwuf without the living Murshid, with license that goes back to the Best of creation, and following in the traces of the footsteps of Sallallahu alayhi wa sallim, they are the ones who have obliterated themselves in slavery to Allah and have no agenda other than obedience to Him and His Rasul.

So if we are talking about ‘influence’, then the word itself is significant as its meaning contains ‘to flow’ like a river. Influence suggests the absence of force and like a river it flows towards the lowest point avoiding obstacles and the impassable it brings life and benefit. This helps us understand, that the deluge that was the revelation in Makkah and Madinah flowed from the Prophet, through his community and its generations and then on through the Rijalullah for centuries; passing through the mountains and valleys of human greed, apathy, fear and envy, residing in kingdoms, republics and democracies, with Shaytan trying to thwart it at every turn.

One of the characteristics of our own Shaykh, Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi, is his love for Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib and his scrupulous adherence to his teaching although residing in a completely different milieu. As Shaykh ibn al-Habib had to respond and adapt to the invasion and attack on Islam from the French colonialists, Shaykh Abdalqadir had to negotiate planting the new seed of Islam into foreign soil, and it could be said that Shaykh Murtada combines the two with the addition of countering a resurgent Nifaq; the point being, that whatever the circumstances, the realities of the original teaching and message must flow on.

Morocco is a flood plain of the mercy, blessings and knowledge of Islam and its sweet fruit Tasawwuf, and over the centuries it has flowed north into white Europe and south into black Africa and beyond. In the current societal darkness it is an obvious source for the regeneration of the Muslim world and a key to planting Islam in foreign lands, and despite colonisation and the neo-colonisation of banking finance democracy, it has held to its Sharifi rulers, the Amirs of the Mumineen. The leadership of King Muhammad VI and his upholding of his ancestor’s teaching and example, is critical to the Sufis, because, as Shaykh Abdalqadir has said, without the Shari’ah, Tasawwuf is a luxury, which does not mean that it should be abandoned but rather its strength and reality be utilised to preserve the hudud as did the mujahideen who left their zawiyyahs to fight the invaders.

I have not come across a more comprehensive and knowledgeable response to the modern scourge of terrorism than that initiated by the King and his awqaf ministry, a further proof of Morocco’s superiority in leadership, and if western powers really wanted to combat extremism they should turn to the Amir al-Mumineen. The Maghrib is the land of the Amal of Madinah and as history shows, you have to return to the pure source to preserve the deen and indeed to establish it. He, sallallahu alayhi wa sallim, and his community are the best and continuing example of how and what to do as human beings, but his legacy will not be continued by politicians, scholars, or men of wealth, although it may include them, rather, as it always has been, by men of Allah, and they are found among the Sufis.

My own connection, source of knowledge and indeed influence, is from Morocco, while residing in an English zawiyyah, studying the diwan of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib under Shaykh Abdalqadir, and when he first asked me to go to South Africa, he only told me to take the Diwan to the Zulus, as they loved to sing.

Islam is well established in the southern tip of Africa and was brought firstly by political prisoners from the Malay peninsula in the 17th century and later by indentured labour from the subcontinent, indeed the city of Cape Town is surrounded by the tombs of awliah from among the Sufis and mujahids exiled by Dutch commercial interests.

The Tariqah Darqawiyya was established in South Africa by Shaykh Abdalqadir during the death throes of Apartheid and the emergence of a new political dispensation, and although there was great expectation of new freedom there was also disillusionment with its progress, so when he arrived he was welcomed by friends and attacked by enemies, such is the nature of people when confronted by the men of Allah, as they reveal what is hidden. After establishing leadership among the local people, the work of instructing them in the Fiqh of Malik and the Wird and Diwan of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib began, and the river of the light of the tariqah flowed into the open hearts of the people of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban. These were the people who saw the life and benefit of turning to Allah following clear guidance. Where water arrives the brown quickly turns to green and the good is manifest, drawing the thirsty to drink from a new source.

Everything I took with me was from the zawiyyahs of Morocco and England and so in those South African cities, Warsh Qur’an was recited and the melodies of the Tafilalet and the Rif mountains echoed on the Highveldt and South African coast, underpinned by the daily recitation of Shaykh ibn al-Habib’s Miftahul Wird.

When a gathering of fuqara was seen it was a proof of the light of the Shaykh. Given South Africa’s turbulent history it was astounding to see Afrikaner, Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, English and Indian, black, white and brown hugging, singing and eating together with no greater allegiance to others outside their gathering. Here were people who called others to Allah without asking anything in return; no wages paid and no inducements made; inexplicable to those whose hearts were not similarly moved.

In my experience it has always been the dhikr of Allah that has moved the hearts of those present and this was particularly so in the case of the Tariqah spreading to Botswana, to the north of South Africa. Three young fuqara visited there, a South African Indian, and Englishman and a Mexican/American, seeking some financial assistance for the Cape Town community. A well-placed local man, Imran Chand, agreed to help them by taking them around to the local businessman, although unsure who this curious and possibly dubious bunch were. At each meeting these young men sang the Diwan of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib and Imran’s heart melted, which led to him visiting Shaykh Abdalqadir in Cape Town and returning home as his Muqaddim and a flowering of the dhikr of Allah and study in the capital city of Gaborone. A further note can be added here about Imran Chand’s expansion of, and strengthening of the Tariqah by means of his daughter Nurayna, from Botswana, marrying Muhammad Rida ben Allou, from Chefchaoun, uniting the North and South of Africa.

The Mawsim gatherings such as we have seen here has brought yearning hearts from other African countries and it is the nature of this particular river that owing to its purity and strength it will not cease to flow and continue to bring life to this great continent.

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