Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fes Festival of Sufi Culture ~ Day Five

 Photo Priam Thomas

Morning Round Table

The day started with a round table discussion of the scriptural foundations of the “Religion of Love.” This is a topic that was covered earlier in the week by Leonard Lewisohn in his talk about mystical poetry. For the most part, the panelists today came from a theological and philosophical background.

Speakers included festival organizer Abdellah Wasani, and two islamic scholars, Abdelali El Amrani-Jamal, and Eric Geoffroy. Ines Safi, a researcher in theoretical physics, was a wildcard addition to the group.

Amrani-Jamal - overwhelmed.  Photo Priam Thomas

Amrani-Jamal praised Fez as a city where love is ingrained in the language of the people. His warm introduction by Wasani overwhelmed him with emotion for the first part of his talk.

“Poetry is manna” -  Eric Geoffroy -  Photo Priam Thomas

Stating that “poetry is manna,” Eric Geoffroy, a philosopher and scholar in the Sufi studies at the University of Strasbourg, charmed the audience by singing several devotional chants. There was also a song played on the kamānche by Mohamad Marati.

Mohamad Marati  Photo Priam Thomas

The music was a welcome relief from what was otherwise a somewhat dry intellectual atmosphere. It helped lead the audience to understanding through the heart rather than the head.

Afternoon Round Table

Mohammed Dibaji  ~ "Much of what is written about Rabiaa is untrue"

The afternoon session was devoted to the life of Rabiaa Adawiyya. She was, as Mohammed Dibaji passionately described her, the first person to "launch the caravan of love" - the doctrine of Divine Love which is at the heart of all true Sufi teachings. Dibaji pointed out that poetry was important because it attracted the heart before the mind.

Rabiaa is widely considered to be the most important of the early Sufi poets. Although much of the poetry that is attributed to her is of unknown origin. After a life of hardship, she spontaneously achieved a state of self-realisation. When asked by Sheikh Hasan al-Basri how she discovered the secret, she responded by stating,"You know of the how, but I know of the how-less."

One of the many myths that surround her life is that she was freed from slavery because her master saw her praying while surrounded by light, realised that she was a saint and feared for his life if he continued to keep her as a slave.

While she apparently received many marriage offers (including a proposal from Hasan al-Basri himself), she remained celibate and died of old age, an ascetic, her only care coming from the disciples who followed her. She was the first in a long line of female Sufi mystics.

"O God! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell,
and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.
But if I worship You for Your Own sake,
grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.” - Rabiaa Adawiyya

A word of thanks to the translators, who this afternoon did a great job of making the esoteric material understandable in English, However, the Festival needs far more headsets. Twenty or so for several hundred guests who do not speak Arabic or English is nowhere near enough.  Several visitors also pointed out that it would improve discussions if moderators followed professional standards: keep to the topic, keep it short and do not talk on the telephone while sitting beside a guest speaker during their presentation.

Evening Concert

 Photo Priam Thomas

Samaà witth Tariqa Rissouniyya

The Rissouniyya are a Tariqa based in Chefchaouen, hence they are often referred to as the Blue Pearls. The group that performed at the Batha Museum comprised ten singers and five instrumentalist - Sax oud, two violins and an electric keyboard, that was employed most of the time to sound much like a harmonium in a Qawwali performance.

Towards the end of the evening the keyboard player performed a solo that, though displaying the young musician's obvious talent, was vaguely at odds with the music that preceded it. Percussion was provided by a tambourine and two drums.

A superb solo singer

Several of the Tariqa's solo singers had superb voices and were a joy to listen to. Another pleasant surprise was the relative youth of the instrumentalists. One young man played particular violin solo that was heartrendingly beautiful.

The young saxophone player

While the concert was a perfectly good display of Samaà, it lacked the punch of the more experienced Tariqas. The fire in the belly that drove the previous night's performance was missing and the audience of well seasoned Samaà aficionados remained in their seats until, taking a cue from the musicians, they finally stood and enjoyed a more upbeat ten minutes.

The young Sufi instrumentalists - Photo Priam Thomas

The Rissouniyya are probably a Tariqa to watch in the future, but at the moment while there is a spark, it is one needing a dose of passion to lift them to the next level.

Festival Etiquette #450 ! 

Don't stand on the stage while guest speakers are making their presentations 

Photos and text: Priam Thomas and Sandy McCutcheon

Tomorrow's Programme at the Batha Museum:
10am  Round Table Amazigh Culture and Poetry
4pm    Round Table Oriental and occidental Singers of Spiritual Love
8.30pm Concert Amazigh Poetic Chants / Samaà with the Turkish Tariqa Khalwatiyya

Thursday's weather: Sunny. Top temperature 28 Celsius. Minimum 13.

See other Festival reports

Sufi Festival  ~ Day One
Sufi Festival - Day Two
Sufi Festival ~ Day Three
Sufi Festival ~ Day Four
Sufi Festival ~ Day Five
Sufi Festival ~ Day Six
Sufi Festival ~ Day Seven
Sufi Festival ~ Day Eight

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1 comment:

Sufi said...

To this festival organizers and their followers:

Sufism is about good intentions followed by good actions for the humanity.
All I see in this festival is only Bla Bla. Using the sponsored money to pay vacation and holidays for some French pseudo intellectuals that no one know or care about in their home countries.
Stop making fan of people. You won't go far with this stupid event produced by stupid and jerk people.