Monday, April 18, 2011

Fez Festival of Sufi Culture: Day 3

Humanity unites male and female, and in it, maleness and femaleness are contingencies, not a human reality. ~ Ibn Arabi

Although Sir Nick Pearson was unable to attend the Festival due to ill-health, Jane Clark gave an interesting talk at the Batha Museum on the views of influential Andalusian philospher Ibn Arabi towards women. She is from the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society in Oxford.

Writing in the 12th century, Ibn Arabi had a remarkably modern attitude towards the women in his life.

'He is clear in his exposition about the equality of men and women as regards intellectual and spiritual achievement,' explained Ms Clark, 'and in particular, in their equal capacity to achieve the degree of what he calls al-insan al-kamil, the realised or perfected human being.'

Although far more men than women are mentioned in Sufi writings, there are plenty of texts that list large number of women who were scholars and teachers from the very beginning.

Ibn Arabi found teachers among rich and poor women, intellectuals as well as illiterate. Fatima bint al-Muthanna was a woman in her 90s who lived on the streets of Cordoba; an unnamed woman was a slave girl of Qasim al-Dawlah the Caliph and lived in Mecca. Zainab al-Qal'iyya, on the other hand, was wealthy and beautiful, but gave up the worldly life. He describes her as 'one of the most intelligent people of our time'. These women had what he called 'manliness' or 'effectiveness' in that they had achieved a degree of closeness to God.


An ecstatic group of Sufi brothers with six whirling dervishes under a glorious full moon the Batha Museum garden made for an exciting evening event.

The sheikh (pictured above) had 14 brothers, the dervishes and daf and ney players for this magical evening that was packed to capacity. Introduced by Faouzi Skali, Director General of the Fes Festival of Sufi Culture, the group intoned seven different prayers for this particular ritual, and the brotherhood enthralled the audience.

The acoustics were superb and every nuance could be heard thanks to some state of the art sound equipment (Pictured above).

Sufi Festival regulars told The View from Fez that this was one of the best concerts in the history of the Sufi Festival. The huge crowd, however, did have some problems getting a clear view. The staging problems associated with whirling dervish performances are difficult to overcome in such a small venue and while those in the front had an intimate experience, a raised stage would have been preferable for a majority of the audience. Given the small area of the Batha Museum venue, the Festival organisers certainly did their best in the constrained circumstances.

Reporting for The View from Fez: Helen Ranger
Additional reporting & photographs: Sandy McCutcheon

No comments: