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Learning about Sufism

Written on: 1 October 2019

Salam! This is Emma, here to share about another one of our guest speakers that we have had on program thus far!

One of the core components of our Dragons program is comparative religion. From learning about the history and pillars of Islam to the history of Judaism in Morocco, we have covered a lot in a short time. Last week in Fes, our group had the incredible opportunity to meet Sidi Brahim and learn about Sufism, specifically the philosophy of the Tijaniyyah. Sufism is one of the three spiritual pillars of Islam in Morocco. The Tijaniyya is one of the largest Sufi orders in the world, with over 250 million adherents and further, it is the largest Sufi order in West Africa. Tijaniyya was founded in the 1780’s by Ahmed Tijani, whose body is now buried in Fes, making Fes an important city for members of the Sufi brotherhood. Sidi Brahim is a direct descendant if Tijani and is responsible for the zarriya (Sufi lodge) in Fes. Members meet at the zarriya for rituals and gatherings.

Our evening with Brahim started out on an unreal note. He took us single file up four flights of stairs to a beautiful terrace overlooking the medina (old city). We removed our shoes before ascending a smooth wooden ladder, up to a pristine wooden terrace. We sat down on rugs and cushions lining the perimeter, not breaking the peaceful silence we found ourselves surrounded by.

Brahim introduces the three men sitting cross legged before us as members of the Sufi brotherhood that teach by voice. As the sun began to set over the old city, Brahim and the three men started to sing, praying for our futures. Tea and snacks made their way around the terrace as we listened to the gentle hum of their voices. It was a beautiful introduction to the evening. I believe that their choice to sing a prayer for us reflects their interest in cultivating love of humanity and creating a better world.

A brief moment of silence followed the end of their rather lengthy song, after which our group delved into the exploration of Sufism and its interactions with other aspects of society and humanity. Brahim, an intellectual, responses impressively well to our barrage of questions.

One of the topics we discussed was the link between spirituality, tradition, and law. He described spirituality as our self, our hope, and the reason we are here on Earth. In his eyes, “religion without spirituality is not religion, only politics.” How is spirituality demonstrated? There are 99 names for God in Islam and these names can be used to evoke certain connections with God. People often name their children after these names, which offers a certain connection with God. Another fascinating opinion Brahim shared with us: “we are not humans with spiritual experience; rather, we are spirits with human experience.” I’ll leave that to each of you readers to interpret.

Lastly, some advice and guidance from Brahim that all of us can perhaps before from…

First, as humans, we all have a responsibility to contribute to society, something that is not defined by religion. Further, worship your own truth, as individuals have their own views but simultaneously acknowledge that everything is connected. Be positive, accept yourself for who you are and see the good in everything – there is always something good.

As the sky darkened and our conversation with Brahim came to an end, I think many of our group members would agree that Brahim invited a whole new collection of questions and uncertainties. We are beyond grateful for the opportunity to speak directly with Brahim, a well-respected and thoughtful man.

Thanks so much for checking in and reading! We have been really busy here in Morocco, learning about all sorts of things. I hope that you learned something new from this yak. We’ll be sure to share more knowledge with you all soon.

All the best,

Emma.