Friday, April 19, 2013

Fes Sufi Festival ~ Day Six

Afternoon at Batha

According to one of the speakers at the afternoon Round Table at the Batha Museum, Sufism has a great deal that could benefit capitalism. The session was entitled "Enterprise and Spirituality".

Commerce student Lelia Amrani was one of three women who featured on the panel, hosted by Faouzi Skali. Leila was an impressive speaker and said since the global financial crisis, capitalism needs "a new discipline; a new way of doing things".

Commerce student Leila Amrani

Sufism, which views both the microcosm and the macrocosm - provides an excellent framework, she said. "It's a system of moral action, which shows us how to respect the other, and the can't have one without the other."

Tariqa Khalwatiyya

The Turkish Tariqa Khalwatiyya had a tiny orchestra, three percussion players on the frame drum and tambourine, an oud (lute),  and a reed flute, called a nay, What they had in abundance were male voices. With their energetic bobbing and head swaying it was impossible to count the number but it was thirty plus. Their solo singers (known as munshid in Morocco) had commanding tenor and baritone voices.

The green hats of the Tariqa were worn by all except the nay player and the men who performed the whirling dervish dances. They wore the traditional tall brown felt hats.

The response of the Moroccan crowd was overwhelmingly enthusiastic and it was understandable that their appeal was, as Festival Director Faouzi Skali said in his introduction, responsible for the revival of Sufism in Turkey.

For the casual visitor as well as the hardened Sufi Festival patrons, the whirling dervishes are fascinating. From the moment they take off their black cloaks and perform a ritual bow to each other, the effect is mesmerising.  The dervishes make the whirling look so simple, yet it is hard work as we witnessed tonight when one man had to stop and get his breath. He quickly recovered, bowed again, then recommenced his dance.

A special tribute to the security workers for dealing so respectfully with some aggressive latecomers who strangely thought that seats should have been provided at the front of the audience.

The Khalwatiyya brotherhood whirled, swayed and rocked to the rhythm of their trance-inducing chanting. Yet, beyond the spectacle, the power of the devotion at the core of the Turkish dervishes was apparent to all.  What took place tonight was not so much performance as genuine ceremony rather than performance. It was a night of dhikr wa Samāa, or prayer and contemplation.  It was both an exciting and deeply moving event.

The Tariqa Khalwatiyya

Allah, Allah, Allah
Allah ya Mawlana
Allah, Allah, Allah
Bifadlika Kuli
Sheik Fatih Nurallah

The Tariqa Khalwatiyya is an Islamic Sufi brotherhood that, along with the Naqshbandi, Qadiri and Shadhili orders,is among the most famous Sufi orders. The order takes its name from the Arabic word khalwa, meaning “method of withdrawal or isolation from the world for mystical purposes". The Khalwati order is known for its strict ritual training of its dervishes and its emphasis on individualism.

The Khalwatiyya are based in Turkey. However, though Moroccan, and more generally North African, Sufism is characterised by the devolution of multiple brotherhoods over time from a small group of orders who brought Sufism to North Africa, principally the Qadiriyya, the Shadhiliyya and the Khalwatiyya themselves, there exist a great number of similar annexes in Turkey, including orders descended from all three of those just mentioned. Rather than shedding light on some fundamental historical difference between Moroccan and Turkish Sufism, therefore, the “originality” of the Khalwatiyya, in contrast to their Moroccan counterparts, appears largely coincidental. Their origin will be seen to have played a part in the uniqueness of their rituals in comparison to the other brotherhoods,

Having said all this, it should be reiterated that the Khalwatiyya have a very strong presence in North Africa, principally through the Tijaniyya annex, which is the largest tariqa in West Africa and whose founder, Ahmed al-Tijani (d.1815), lived and was buried in Fez. Indeed it was al-Tijani who was responsible for propagating the Khalwatiyya order, which he had encountered in Cairo on his way to Mecca to perform the Hajj, in the Maghreb. In a further example of the inter-connectedness of the brotherhoods’ histories, Tijani had also been an initiate of the Wazzaniyya and the Qadiriyya. This reflects the widespread diffusion of the oldest Sufi orders throughout the lands of Islam, and demonstrates how no order should be considered indigenously “Moroccan”, their origins stretching back to the medieval Middle-East and Central Asia. Similarly, whilst we may talk of the “Turkish Khalwatiyya”, the fact is that they originated in Tabriz, in what is present-day Iran, their master the Persian speaking ‘Umar al-Khalwati (d.1398).

Text: Sandy McCutcheon
Photographs: Suzanna Clarke
Additional notes: Fitzroy Morrissey

10am Round Table - Sufism and Philosophical Thought
4pm Round Table - Sufi Samâa
8.30pm  - Samâa Night with the Amateur Association of Andalusian Music in Morocco 
See our full Sufi Festival coverage

Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five
Day Six
Day Seven
Final Night 

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