Friday, April 13, 2012

The 6th Fez Festival of Sufi Culture

The organisers of the Sixth Festival de Fès de la Culture Soufie, must have looked up at the skies for the first day of the conference with sad faces. After a string of bright blue sunny days, the heavens were iron grey. By 9 a.m, an hour before the opening ceremony, a light drizzle had become a heavy downpour, which continued most of the day.

This year's conference is entitled, ‘Sapiences Soufies’ ‘Sufi Wisdom, The Literature of the Hikam in the Sufi Tradition’, and the opening ceremony was held under the ornate ceiling and huge brass candelabras of the main hall of the Musee Batha.

Festival Director, Faouzi Skali, welcomed delegates  from around the world
Sufi literature was expressed through poetry, stories, educational or metaphysical presentations, or as a literature of ‘the wise’ (hikam), words of wisdom that are glimpses of the unveiling of spiritual routes both inside and on our behavior.

These meditations, such as the hikam of Ata Illah Ibn al Iskandari, nourish the hearts of disciples, but are also a collective culture imbued with the values and conceptions of mind and spirit that wove the matrix of the civilization of Islam.

Photograph Gerard Chemit

Photograph; Gerard Chemit

Some contemporary authors have used this in their own way through the impregnation of a work that is both powerful, original and universal. This is the case of Muhammad Iqbal, a Pakistani Sufi thinker, who died in 1938, and who left a rich and deep body of work that is honoured in the sixth edition of the Festival of Sufi Culture.

A hikam is an aphorism; a phrase, or a short sentence, which aims to touch the heart directly. It’s not limited by space or time. This teaching is aimed to touch a soul, in every culture and every time. The most famous hikam are found in the Kitab al-Hikam of Shayk Ata Illah Ibn al Iskandari, a 12th century poet. The essential core of the work is to be found in the author's collection of spiritual aphorisms, 264 in total. Part of the conference will considering whether the hikam still have relevance to everyday life.

Give yourself a rest from managing!When Someone else is doing it for you,don't you start doing it for yourself!
A feeling of discouragement when you slip upis a sure sign that you put your faith in deeds.

Unfortunately, the rain didn’t let up, so the evening sawaâ was held in the main hall. A full house greeted Tariqa Charqawiyya, as eleven men robed in white and cream made their way to the stage. Other than a muted drum, the only accompaniment to the pulsing a cappella was the clapping of hands, first by the ensemble, and gathering pace as the audience joined in. Most of the Tariqa maintained their clapping, but a tall figure in the centre of the group appeared to lose himself in the ritual, moving his right hand and fingers as expressively as he moved his feature, his left hand covering his ear in the style that would be recognisable to anyone who had ever been to a western folk club.

The audience reacted ecstatically as the tempo of the sawaâ increased; heads nodded, shoulders swayed, feet stomped, and an elegantly dressed man with a neat goatee beard stood up and bounced up and down on his toes.

The music of the Nidhamouddine Brotherhood of New Delhi, could not have been more different, the Qawwali heavily driven by two harmoniums accompanied by tabla, dhol, and masterful vocals. The common ground the performers had with Tariqa Charqawiyya, that of Sufi poetry and giving praise to the Prophet, had no resemblance as far as its rhythm and melody was concerned, but each was a stunning performance that received great appreciation and standing ovations from the audience.

Programme for Friday 13 April, 2012:

10am: Hikam and path of spiritual chivalry (futuwwa).
4pm: Conference hikam and culture.
8:30 p.m: Samaâ of the Tariqa Qadiriyya Boutichichiyya (Morocco)
9:00 pm: Samaâ of the Tariqa Khalwatiyya Turkey.

Words and photos by Derek Workman
Additional photographs: Gerard Chemit 


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