Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi (d. 1239/1823)

The Celebrated Friend of Allah, the Fabulous Gnostic, the Marvellous Sharif, Moulay al-Arbi ibn Mohammed Darqawi al-Idrissi al-Hassani, was one of the most influential Islamic leaders of nineteenth century North Africa. He was the founder of the Darqawiya Path, a branch of the great Shadhiliya which was itself founded by the Shaykh Sidi Abul Hassan Shadhili (d. 656/1241) in the seventh/thirteenth century. In addition to the wide geographical extent of the Hassanid Sharifian paths of the Ahmediya Tijaniya, the Kattaniya, and the Idrissiya, the spiritual radiation of the Darqawiya brought about a sudden great flowering of Sufism in the Maghreb and beyond.

The Darqawiya was the last-born in a venerable tree that counted on its trunk and its main branches two particularly illustrious names: that of Moulay Abdessalam ibn Mashish (d. 622/1207) and Sidi Ahmed Zarruq al-Fasi (d. 899/1484), whose way  had spread greatly not only in Morocco, where it had come into being in the seventh/thirteenth century, but also in the Maghreb, in Egypt, and in the Arab East, where it quickly spread before reaching the most distant confines of the Muslim World.

A contemporary of the Concealed Pole, the Known Mohammedian Seal, the illustrious Sufi Master, Abil Abbas Sidi Ahmed Tijani al-Hassani (d. 1230/1815), Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi was born in 1159/1760 in the mountains north of Fez among the Bani Zarwal tribe. The full name of Moulay al-Arbi included several nisbas that showed its status.

He was known as “ad-Darqawi al-Hassani al-Idrissi”. The Darqawis earned their name from their forefather, the Murabit, Sidi Darqa, a venerated saint who was known for his piety and working miracles and who frequently accompanied the Almohad sultan to the Andalusia for the purpose of holy war (jihad).

Moulay al-Arbi met a group of renowned shaykhs in his beginnings, including the Qutb Moulay Tayyeb Wazzani al-Hassani (d. 1181/1766), Sidi Abderrahman ibn Idriss al-Fasi and the Majdub Sidi al-Arbi Baqqal al-Hassani, but it was Sidi Ali al-Amrani al-Hassani (“the famous Al-Jamal, Eng. Camel”; d. 1193/1779) that he accepted his leadership. Sidi Ali al-Jamal was a Shadhili devotee par excellence.

After 20 years of service to the Qutb Moulay Tayyeb Wazzani and his brother the Qutb Moulay Tuhami Wazzani (d. 1127/1712), Sidi Ali al-Jamal became associated in Fez with the Gnostic Sidi Abdellah Ben Abdellah Ma’in al-Andalusi, and it was opened unto him at his hand.

Based at the Makhfiyya quarter on the Andalusian corner of the city of Fez, Sidi Abdellah was initiated into the Zarruqite Shadhiliya Path through his father Sidi al-Arbi, who had it from his father Sidi Ahmed (d. 1129/1714), Sidi Qasim Khassasi (d. 1083/1668), Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah (d. 1062/1647), Sidi Abderrahman al-Fasi (d. 1027/1612), Sidi Abul Mahasin Yusuf al-Fasi (d. 1013/1598), Moulay Abderrahman al-Majdoub (d. 976/1561), Sid Ali Sanhaji Dawwar (d. 950/1535), Sidi Abdellah ibn Ibrahim Fahham Zarhouni (d. 939/1524), and Sidi Ahmed Zarruq al-Fasi (d. 899/1484).

Sidi al-Arabi Ben Abdellah had also the Qadirite Shaykh, the Sharif, Sidi Ahmed ibn Abdellah al-Yamani, as a master. Sometime around the year 1081/1666, Sidi Ahmed al-Yamani entered Fez from the Sudan and soon later earned colossal fame in the circles of ulama, sharifs and Sufis.

He became tied to the Shadhilite lodge of Sidi Abu Bakr Majjati Dilai (d. 1021/1606) and initiated numerous noted saints including Sidi Ahmed ibn Abd al-‘Hay al-‘Halabi al-Fasi (d. 1120/1708) and Sidi Mohammed ibn Ahmed al-Misnawi (d. 1136/1724). He was very crucial in the spiritual growth of Sidi al-Arbi and even his father Sidi Ahmed Ben Abdellah.

The Darqawite Shaykh, the Sharif, Sidi Ahmed ibn Ajiba al-Idrissi al-Hassani (d. 1224/1809) remarks in his Fahrasa that Sidi Ahmed had received training from Shaykh Yamani in Fez. Sidi Qacem Khassasi (d. 1083/1677), who had transmitted him the Shadhiliya, had already died when Sidi Ahmed had not yet reached mystic maturity.

Before dying, he said: “Someone will come to perfect you.” Shaykh Yamani came to perfect him, as matter of fact, and went to great expense for the disciple.” (See: Pan Ties of Qadiri-Shadhili Branches)

According to Sidi al-Hassan ibn Mohammed al-Kuhan al-Fasi’s “Jami’a al-Karamat al-‘Aliyya fi Tabaqat Sadah Shadhiliya” (Merits of the Saints in the Recollection of the Shadhili Masters), Moulay al-Arabi Darqawi has learned about Sidi Ali al-Jamal through Sidi Mohammed, the grandson of the Noted Pole Sidi Abdellaziz Dabbagh d. 1132/1717), on whom Kitab al-Ibriz was written. Sidi al-Haj Mohammed al-Khayyat (d. 1241/1826), a noted disciple of Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi, gave an account of the first meeting between his master and Sidi Ali al-Jamal, which took place in 1182/1767,

That night I asked God to confirm my intention (of becoming a disciple of the Master Sidi Ali al-Jamal), and I spent the whole night picturing him to myself, wondering what he was like and how my meeting with him would be, unable to sleep. When morning came, I went to find him at his Zawiya in the Rmila quarter, located between the two cities of Fez (Bayn Lamdoun), on the river bank, in the direction of the Qibla, on the very spot where his tomb lies today.

I knocked on the gate and there he was before me, sweeping at the Zawiya—as was his custom, for he never gave up sweeping it everyday with his blessed hand, in spite of his great age and high spiritual function. “What do you want” he said. “Oh my Lord,” I replied “I want you to take me by the hand for God.”

Then he began to reprove me furiously, hiding his true state from my eyes, with his words such as these: “And who told you that I take anyone at all by the hand and I ever should do so for you?” And he drove me away—all to test my sincerity. So I went away. But when night came I questioned God once more (by means of the Holy Quran).

Then after performing the morning prayer, I want back again to the Zawiya. I found the master again sweeping as before and knocked at the gate.

He opened it and let me in and I said: “Take me by the hand for God’s sake!” Then he took me by the hand and I said: “Welcome!” He let me into his dwelling place in the inner part of the Zawiya and manifested great joy.

“Oh my Lord,” I said to him, “I have been looking for a master for so long!” “And I,” he replied, “was looking for a sincere disciple for so long as well.”

Tomb of Sidi Ali al-Jamal

“Nobody knows Sidi Ali al-Jamal except Sidi Ali al-Jamal”; “Sidi Ali al-Jamal’s opening was stonger than that of Sidi Abul Abbas al-Mursi;” “Sidi Ali al-Jamal used to meet with the Holy Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, and the Ten Companions promised paradise at will — From the sayings of Sidi Mohammed ibn Abdelhafidh Dabbagh (d. 1291/1876), the student of Mawlay al-Arabi Darqawi (may Allah sanctify his secret)

According to Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi, “One of the effects of Divine Bounty, Grace, and Generosity is that one finds the Master who can grant spiritual education; without Divine Grace no one would find or recognize him, since, according to the saying of the saint Abul Abbas al-Mursi (may God be pleased with him): ‘It is more difficult to know a saint than to know God.

Again, in the Hikam of lbn “Ata’Allah, it is said: ‘Exalted be He who makes His saints known only in order to make Himself known and who leads towards them those whom He wishes to lead towards Himself.'” Moulay al-Arabi tells how his master tested him by ordering him, a young scholar of noble lineage, to carry a load of fresh fruit through the town:

The first lesson that my master gave me was as follows: he ordered me to carry two baskets full of fresh through the town. I carried them in my hands, and did not wish, as the others told me, to put them on my shoulders, for that was unwelcomed to me, and constricted my soul, so that it became agitated and fearful a d grieved beyond measure till I began to weep And, by God, I still had to weep for all the shame, humiliation, and scorn that I had to undergo as a result.

Never before had my soul had to suffer such a thing, so I was not conscious of its pride and cowardice. I had not known whether it was proud or not, since no professor, amongst all those that I had frequented, had ever taught me about my soul.

While I was in this state, my master, who perceived my pride and my inner distress, came up to me, took the two baskets from my hands, and placed them on my shoulders with the words: ‘Distinguish thus between good and evil’.

Thereby he opened the door for me and led me on the right way, for I learned to discriminate between the proud and the humble, the good and the bad, the wise and the foolish, the orthodox and the heretical, between those who know and translate their knowledge into deeds, and those who do not.

From that moment no orthodoxy person ever overpowered me with hiss orthodoxy, no heretic with his heresy, no scholar with his knowledge, no pious man with his piety, and no fasting man with his asceticism. For my master, may God have mercy on him, had taught me to distinguish truth from vanity, and wheat from chaff.

Inspired by the shrine of Sidi Ahmed ibn Yusuf Gannun (d. after 933/1518) in the Bani Zerwal, Moulay al-Arabi achieved divine opening right next to his tomb. According to Mumti’u‘ al-asma’a fi dhikr Jazouli wa at-Tabba’a wa ma lahuma mina al atba‘ (The Delight of the Hearing in the Recollection of Jazouli, at-Tabba’a, and Their Followers), a hagiographical monograph written by Sidi Mohammed al-Mahdi al-Fasi (d. 1109/1694), Sidi Ahmed ibn Yusuf Gannun had already established a zawiya in the Beni Zarwal at the time of his master, al-Qutb Sidi Abdellaziz Tabba’a (d. 933/1518).

Contemporary to Sidi al-Hadi b. Aissa (d. 933/1518 in Meknes) and Sidi Abdelkarim al-Fallah (d. 933/1518), Sidi Ahmed ibn Yusuf permitted himself to initiate many notables including the Allama Sidi Abul Mahasin Yusuf al-Fasi (d. 1013/1598).

Should a shrine be gifted with a medicine; one of the main concentrations of Sidi Ahmed ibn Yusuf is headache-healing. (See: Sidi Mohammed Radi Gannun, the grandson of Sidi Ahmed ibn Yusuf)

Moulay al-Arbi remained as a servant at the door of his teacher in Fez for seven years, after which he went to the Bani Zarwal, and for seven more years, he visited him often.

In fact he went to see him twice a year and each time brought him two cows in order to provide him with dried meat (khli’a), two loads of raisin (zabib), and a load of sweet acorns (ballut), up to the time of Shaykh Ali’s death. Simultaneously, Moulay al-Arbi was able to give spiritual training early before the death of his Shaykh:

Soon after I had found my master… he authorised me to initiate a certain man of letters who had been one of my teachers in Quranic reading. This man, following my example, wanted to become a disciple of my own master and kept on asking me to obtain permission for him to do so.

When I spoke to my master about it, he answered: “Take him by the hand yourself, since it was through you that he came to know about me.” So I transmitted the teaching I myself had received and it bore fruit thanks to the blessing (baraka) inherent in my noble master’s authorisation. However, since I had to leave Fez in order to go back to the Bani Zarwal tribe where I had left my parents, I was separated from him.

As for the master, he was still living in Fez al-Bali and when I was about to set out on my journey to the tribe in question I said to him: “Where am I going there is no one at all with whom I could have spiritual conversation (Mudhakara) and yet I am in need of such exchange.” He answer: “Beget the man you need!” as though he thought that spiritual generation through me, or as though he already saw it.

I spoke to him again on the same theme and again he replied: “Beget them!” Now, thanks to the blessing emanating from his authorisation (idhn) and from his secret (Sirr), a man came to me may God multiply his like in Islam) who, at the instant I saw him and he me, was filled by God to overflowing, to such a degree that he attained in one leap the spiritual station (maqam) of extinction (fana’) and subsistence (baqa’) in God and God is our Warrant for what we say.

In this very event, the virtue and secret power contained in authorisation were revealed to me and all doubts and suggestions left me, thanks and praise be to God!

Later, my soul desired to receive the authorisation of God Himself and His Messenger (peace and blessing be upon him). I aspired to this most persistently. Now when one day I happened to be in a lonely spot  in the midst of the forest and was immersed and overwhelmed in extreme spiritual intoxication and at the same time in extreme sobriety—both aspects exceedingly powerful—all of a sudden I heard these words sounding forth from the depth of my essence: Urge them to remember, for remembrance profits the believers (Quran).

Then my heart became calm and rested, because I knew for certain that these word were addressed to me by God and His Messenger (peace and blessing be upon him), immersed as I was in the two generous Presences, the one Dominical, the other Prophetic.

What came about (but God knows best) was that the ordinary laws were broken, by a rupture proceeding from the very depths of my essence. Of course there can be no “how” and it can be known only by him to whom God makes it known.

No sooner had this authorisation been given to me than the believers came toward me and no sooner did I see them and they me than they remembered God and we also remembered, and we profited by them as they profited by us and there occurred what occurred in the way of divine favours, secrets, powers, blessings and help.

All this came to pass amongst the Bani Zarwal tribe (God safeguard it from all trails), praise and thanks to be to God!

To his Sufi counterparts, Moulay al-Arbi was a great miracle worker. In the Rasail he gave account of his first outstanding karama:

When I was under a vow of developing myself to spiritual poverty and was stripping myself of various conventions but of no value in themselves, my family and other people detested me, since instead of confirming to their ways I was becoming detached from them.

Now, while our relationship was still like this, there was a drought; we prayed to God to send us rain, but no rain came and the drought continued. One day, when I was present at a family gathering, my brother Ali (God be merciful to him) said to me: “The Awliya are able to work miracles and here is the wheat dying, burnt up by the sun.

If you are one of them, then ask God to make it rain or else give up this spiritual poverty and go back to your studies.” I was silent and did not answer him. But he was not silent; he insulted me and bore down on me with all the weight of his resentment, and everyone present was delighted, for in their eyes I was on the wrong road and blind, for the simple reason that I was no credit to the family.

This scene went on and I accepted it all patiently—and nobody can bear such a thing unless God is helping him or unless he cannot do otherwise—until my heart was broken; then I went out of the mosque where we had held our meeting. I looked up at the sky and, which was clear except for a tiny little cloud just above us.

Then I said, as some of the saints have said: “O my Lord, if You will not take pity on me, I shall end by being angry!” And then it happened that the little cloud above us spread out in the wind, to the south and to the north, before us and behind, and the rain began to fall with such violence that we were soaked by it, inside the mosque as well as outside; the water flooded the mosque in which we were gathered just as it flooded the fields and reached us from above and from below.

After the death of his teacher Sidi Ali, Moulay al-Arbi found the Zawiya of Bu Brih in the Bani Zarwal where his family had being established for many generations. In founding a Tariqa whose chain of transmission spanned over a millennium and which essentially confirmed the Shadhilite rule, Shaykh Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi  had no intention of being an innovator, but rather a “renovator” (mujaddid)  who through the radiance of his example and his personality reinstalled life and vigour into the mystical teachings of the past.

There is no better summary of the goals and means of reaching them that he proposed to his disciples than that found in his “Letters” (Rasail), documents of great interest for an understanding of concrete Moroccan Sufism. In them Moulay Darqawi recalls that human beings can have access, even in this life, to the graces of the Beyond:

“… And keep yourself steadfastly in the patience of God, for He, exalted may He be, will cover your weakness with His Strength, your abasement with His Glory, your ignorance with His Richness, your powerlessness with His Power, your anger with His Mercy, and so forth, such that you will live eternal life in this world, before death. … I repeat – take care!

Be careful not to anything distract you from your Lord since there is nothing in reality except Allah. “Allah was and there is nothing with Him, He is now as He was.” Know that when a man has need of something, that is because of his ignorance and lack of knowledge. If it had not been for his ignorance, he would not need anything except Allah.

The Mighty Quran and hadith of the Prophet both testify to this. Listen to the answer of the saint of Allah, Sidi Sahl Tustari, to one of his murids who said to him, “Master – food!” He told him, “Allah.”

The murid remained silent for awhile and then said, “We must have food.” He told him, “We must have Allah.”I say that, by Allah, in reality we and others have no need except Allah. If we are His, He is ours as in the past with others – He was theirs if they were His. ”

Taking up a theme that was already part of the experience of the first Sufis, that of the “redescent (tanazzul) of the saint, after he had been consumed by the Divine Essence (fana’ fi-dat), into the worlds of forms where he continues to see God thanks to the state of “perpetuation” (baqa’)—the highest possible form of realisation—

Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi quotes these words of the Prophet Sidna Mohammed (peace and blessing be upon him): “I have not seeing anything without seeing God without seeing God in it,” and comments: “it is impossible to  see our Lord while seeing something other than Him, as they who have reached this degree of knowledge maintain.…

Without a doubt, there is no reality outside of God; it is only the imagination (wahm) that veils Him from our eyes, and imagination is vain… Men of the knowledge of God do not flee from things as others flee from them because the vision of existing things keeps them from seeing Him from Whom existence proceeds…”

The way par excellence to reach this state of union (wusul) is constant practice of the invocation of God’s Name, together with the exercise of the spiritual virtues: “All good is in the invocation (dhikr) of God, since He said –exalted may He be: “Men and women who remember God frequently,

God has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward” (33:35)… All we need is to block our passionate desires, for in so doing we inquire infused knowledge, and with it we acquire great certitude, and great certitude will deliver us from all doubts and worries, and will lead us to the presence of the infinitely knowing King…”

To be a good faqir is not absolutely necessary to live as an ascetic (zahid), cut off from the world and its preoccupations. Shaykh Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi wrote to a disciple who was afraid to get married: “We see that there are men who, without being among the elite, lived in the midst of multiple occupations as if they had none themselves, while others who are responsible for no more than their owns heads get it so muddled that they are continually in great pain…

What is more astounding than him who blames everything on his professional activity if he has not managed to perfect himself! He says: ‘If I had left my affairs to devote all my attention to my Lord, I would be in a better state’; and yet there are numerous lost moments in his life; he does  not see them, nor does he blame the fact that he is wasting them without focussing his attention on his Lord. Therein lies his defect and his loss….”

Although his followers regarded Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi as a reformist and renovator, officials of the Alawite state were concerned about the social significance of the Darqawiya as a formal institution. Particularly worrisome was the order’s use of symbolic signs of group of solidarity, such as wearing distinctive clothing.

The Darqawa “uniform” included a patched cloak (muraqqa’a)— a sign of renunciation of the world (zuhd) and spiritual poverty (faqr)— and a large rosary (tasbih) with heavy wooden balls so that the whole tasbih hung below the waist when not in use, an item that was first introduced by the Moroccan Shaykh Sidi Abu Mohammed Salih Majiri (d. 631/1216) in the 7th/13th  century and renewed two centuries later by the venerated Shadhili Master Sidi Mohammed ibn Slimane Jazouli (d. 869/1454).

It is a fact that the Sultan Sidi Mohammed ibn Abdellah (d. 1204/1790) and his son Moulay Sulayman (d. 1233/1818) had an attitude that was favourable to mystical brotherhoods. Moulay Sulayman, himself a devotee of the Concealed Pole Sidi Ahmed Tijani (d. 1230/1815), however, had serious squabbles with followers of Shaykh Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi (known popularly as ‘Darqawa’) during the last years of his reign.

The pursuit of ‘blame’ (malama) was to bring some trouble with authorities. For instance, in 1211/1796, all the Darqawa of Tetouan, including their teacher Sidi Ahmed Ibn Ajiba (d. 1224/1804), were imprisoned, and charged with innovation (bid’a) in wearing the muraqqa’a.

They were released after giving an undertaking (not kept, it seems) to end their practices. Similar wrangles occurred to the Darqawi Shaykh of Tetouan, the Idrissid Sharif Sidi Mohammed Harraq (d. 1261/1846).

As a result Moulay al-Arbi ordered his disciples to leave the towns and settle in the countryside, because “the (inhabitants of) towns have exorbitant usages, and a great tumult, it does not suit those who try to reach God.” To understand the doctrine of poverty of Darqawa, Sidi Ahmed Ibn Ajiba wrote in his Fahrasa:

Know that the way must necessarily entail a break from one’s habit (‘harq al-‘awaid), the acquisition of valuable traits (iktisab al-fawaid), and struggle against individualist tendencies (ijtihad an-nufus), so that you might enter into the Holy Presence.

How is a break with habits going to take place for you if you cannot manage to break the habits of your nafs? If there were no domains of egos (mayadin nufus), no traveller would make the voyage. The men of the elite are only distinguished from normal men by the battle they wage against their individual ego.

The most tenacious of the habits that must be torn away from the ego are [love of] glory and [of] wealth, such that glory is changed into humility and wealth into poverty.

Humility and poverty are two monumental doors for gaining access to God and attaining His presence. Abu Yazid (Bastami), via an interior voice, was addressed by God in the following words: “O Abu Yazid! Our stores are filled with acts of obedience (khidma), come to me through the small door of humility and dependence (iftiqar)!”

Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi seems highly traditional in his teaching, notably in the ancient discipline of attracting “blame” by colourful behaviour, such as begging and carrying buckets of excrement around in public. Certainly he wished to return to certain pristine values, though the way he did it made some, particularly among the ulama, see him as more heterox than orthodox.

It is not difficult to imagine the critics of the ulama to Shaykh Moulay Darqawi who attracted more than 40,000 follower. The ulama were particularly concerned about his use of institutional symbology, such as wearing the distinctive garments of Darqawa brotherhood, and reaffirming the ethos of Moroccan-Shadhilite Sufism which is based on poverty (faqr ila-llah).

Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi was little concerned with these fears, however, and even condemned the ulama of Morocco for their hypocrisy and irrelevance, especially with regard to their failure to arouse the Muslim masses in defence of their religious values.

The Shaykh reserved his most bitter invectives for those scholars who, while criticising rural Sufis for their lack of religious knowledge, allowed the masses of Morocco to slip into ever deeper levels of ignorance and corruption.

By living off the wealth of their sinecures and doing little to spread their knowledge to others, these ulama shared responsibility for the rise of Christian-inspired customs and social deviance especially in the port cities affected by European commercial penetration.  Moulay al-Arbi laid such problems as alcoholism and drug addiction at the feet of the scholarly establishment.

Rather than wasting their time making pronouncements about the permissibility of minor variations in Islamic practice, the ulama should instead teach the fundamental values of Islam to everyone:

We have heard that you have abandoned your faults and occupied yourselves with the faults of others. Do you not know that it says in the Book of Allah Almighty, ‘Do you order people to devoutness and forget yourselves’ (2:44) to the end of the verses?

Or perhaps you have no faults? Far be it from the one who is free of faults that he should see other than the Beloved! Only the one who has faults sees the fault. What fault is greater than seeing others who are all you see both day and night?

There is no doubt that both the comely person and the ugly one only see their own face among people. Be comely and you will see comeliness. Be ugly and you will see ugliness. Shaykh al-Busairi said in his Burda, may Allah be pleased with him:

“The eye may reject the light of the sun because of ophthalmia,

And the mouth may reject the taste of water because of illness.”

This is a valid measure. By Allah, if we were ill, water would taste bitter in our months. If the faces of our meanings were good, then our sensory faces could only be good. People are like a mirror for those who look at them.

Whoever has a comely face sees a comely face in them. Whoever has an ugly sees an ugly face in them. It is not possible for the comely to see one who is ugly as it is not possible for the ugly to see one who is comely. Because of this, Shaykh Abul Hassan ‘Ali al-Kharrubi, may Allah be pleased with him, said,

“Say to those who see what they reject in us,

Because of the purity of our drink,  you see your own faces in us.”‘

Fuqaha’, we were like you, or worse than you, when we found the states of the people ugly and our states excellent. A lot of people were like us – Shaykh ‘Izzuddin ibn Abdessalam, Shaykh al-Ghazali, Shaykh Ibn ‘Ata’Allah, Shaykh Ibn al-Arabi al-Hatimi, Shaykh Abul Hassan Shadhili, and their likes, may Allah be pleased with them.

Then Allah opened their inner eyes and illuminated their secrets and removed the veil of illusion from them. They looked for ugliness and did not find any report of it. Listen, fuqaha’, to what one of them said: ‘Had I been obliged to see other-than-Him, I would not have been able to do it since there is nothing else with Him, so how can I see it with Him?’ They said:

‘Since I have recognized the divinity, I do not see other-than-Him.

Similarly otherness is forbidden with us

Since I have gathered together what I feared would separate,

today I have arrived gathered.’

That is how it is. The business of dhikr is vast, and the favour of Allah, His generosity, openhandness and mercy is vaster and vaster still. What is that you find that you reject, dislike, abhor, and find heavy except the dhikr of Allah Almighty in the houses as Allah – glory be to Him! – has commanded in His Book?

The Almighty said, ‘In houses which Allah has permitted to be built and in which His Name is remembered’ to the end of the verses (24:36). Or are you worshipping your Lord while the one who reject tempts you? If this is the case, then do not accept it from the one who does it. Turn him aside and strike him in the face.

Only the ignorant and the one who is pleased with himself think well of him. We do not see anyone in your area worshipping Allah as you claim. Rather we see that some of the students who recite the Quran do not pray most of the time. As for the use of tobacco, hashish, sodomy, slander, calumny, and the like of that which our Lord has forbidden us, we will not say anything to you or them about that.

We do not see you hastening to anything like you hasten to talking against the people of the Tariqa, may Allah be pleased with them. It has become a general necessity for you in all lands. The people who are affiliated with Allah are those who turn in repentance from that to Allah.

Do not be preoccupied with them and their faults as if Allah Almighty had rendered you secure from faults. The truth is far from that! ‘No one feels secure against Allah’s devising except for those who are lost’ (7:99).

The upshot is that if you desire counsel and safety from disgrace, then turn to Allah, your Lord to repent of your wrong action, since Allah Almighty says, ‘Turn to Allah, every one of you’ to the end of the verses (24:31). The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Turn in repentance. I turn in repentance seventy times every day.”

Another hadith says a hundred times. This was in spite of the fact that Allah Almighty had forgiven him any wrong actions, past and future. We see that the Prophet, peace be upon him, was rising through the stations. Whenever he reached a station, he found one higher than one before it, even if that station was high, e.g. a station of security.

Would that we could reach a station such as the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had turned from! The good deeds of the devout are the bad deeds of the best. The good deeds of the best are the bad deeds of the near. You must absolutely turn in repentance to Allah and rectitude any injustice shown to people.

You should avoid lying, slander, calumny, and all forbidden and disliked things. You must be aware of the repulsive things which are in your hearts and which Allah has forbidden you, inwardly and outwardly. Heedless students, what you have outwardly is what we have mentioned and clarified.

We will now mention the inward – pride, showing-off, envy, vanity, slander, calumny, deviation from the right way, stupidity, greed, miserliness, and other repulsive qualities with which it is not permitted for the believer to fill his heart. It is permitted for him to purify his heart of them by night before day, and while sitting before standing if he can do that.

If not, he must search for a doctor throughout all of the Maghreb, in the cities and the deserts. If he finds him, he should not leave him and should not leave him and should cling to him until he purifies his heart for him of the foulness which has afflicted it and of all his faults. If he does not find him in the Maghreb, then he should set out for the East immediately.

Do not delay until you can go with the hajjis. Go quickly there so that repentance will not be delayed. Then you would need yet another repentance since delaying repentance is a wrong action which obliges repentance. ‘Someone who turns in repentance from wrong actions is like someone who has no wrong actions,’ as the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said.

It says the Book of Allah, ‘Your Lord has made mercy incumbent on Himself’ to the end of the verses (6:54), and ‘It is He who accepts tawba from His slaves’ to the end of the verses. (42:25)”

The Darqawiya Path played a big role in the history of Morocco spiritually and also politically. The political role of the order becomes especially apparent during the reign of Sultan Moulay Mohammed (d. 1204/1789) and Sultan Slimane (d. 1238/1823).

Some disciples of Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi were very politically active on several occasions. Shaykh Sidi al-Hajj Mohammed Ahrash al-Boudali was one of them. He was a Moroccan who went to the Hijaz on pilgrimage. On his return (c. 1799) from the East, he stopped in Egypt, at that moment under attack by the French.

He gathered a force of Tunisians and other Maghribis—of whom there was a large colony in the late eighteenth century Cairo—to fight the invaders. Here Shaykh al-Boudali won fame for his personal bravery. After leaving Egypt, Shaykh al-Boudali stopped at Tunis, making the acquaintance of the Bey, Abu Mohammed Hammuda Pasha.

The Bey entrusted him with the role of fomenting a rebellion against the Ottoman Bey of Constantine and gave him money for that purpose.

In provoking a rising, Shaykh al-Boudali’s Darqawi connections were significant. He also called himself Sahib al-Waqt, “Master of the Time,” hinting that he might be a Mahdi or at least the forerunner of a Mahdi. He soon won resounding military successes. Hundreds of Kabyle tribesmen joined his forces.

About 1218/1803-4, Sidi al-Boudali ambushed the incautious Bey of Constantine and massacred his army in a narrow defile. Despite the rage of the Dey at Algiers over this disaster, which was followed by intensified Ottoman military activity against him, Shaykh al-Boudali was able to hold out in the mountains of Eastern Algeria for a long time.

Much of the region was in perpetual uproar over his raiding and resistance to the Dey in Algiers. However, when the Dey enlisted a qaid who knew the country and led a new army against him, Shaykh al-Boudali fled westward toward the Oran (Wahran) region, where he joined the camp of Shaykh Sidi Mohammed ibn Sharif, another disciple of Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi.

At this point, Sidi al-Boudali vanished from history. A number of different versions exist of his final exploits and his flight to Morocco.

Another figure very much like Shaykh al-Boudali was Sidi Mohammed ibn Sharif (whose full name was Abu Mohammed Abdellqadir ibn ash-Sharif al-Falliti), a Kassasa Berber from Wad al-‘Abd district east and south of Oran. He had studied at the Zawiya of Amir Abdellqadir’s family at Qaytana, and was personally acquainted with Amir Abdellqadir’s father.

On leaving Qaytana he went to Fez where he met Shaykh Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi and joined his brotherhood. At this time, Shaykh Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi was an important political ally of the sultan of Morocco. As a result of this connection, Sidi ibn Sharif returned in 1217/1802 to his own district proclaiming himself “the Expected Mahdi”.

He obtained quick support from the impoverished local people, who only too willing to sack and plunder under his leadership when he laid waste to adjoining areas. Informed of Shaykh ibn Sharif’s activities, the Bey of Oran raised an army against the revel. But Shaykh ibn Sharif was too powerful for the Bey, who was heavily defeated by the Darqawi forces on the plain of Gharis between Mascara and Qaytana.

The beaten Bey fled to Oran for cover.  As they pressed their pursuit, Ibn Sharif’s men obtained much booty. Eventually they besieged Oran. A relief army was sent overland from Algiers by the Dey, commended by Ali Agha. Along the route, in the Wadi Shalif, the army was so harassed by the Darqawi forces and fell so short of food and water that it had to turn back to Algiers.

The Bey sent a letter asking for the help of the Moroccan sultan. Since the rebellion was in the name of the Darqawi order, the aid of the order’s head, Moulay al-Arbi, in settling the conflict would be most helpful. The relations between the two states had on occasion been less than friendly, and there had been a number of clashes and conflicts in the border region.

However, a successful Moroccan intervention would evidently be a diplomatic fain for the sultan, so he sent Shaykh Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi to Oran. But upon arriving among his brothers, the Shaykh, who was in his sixties, decided to join them and denounced the behaviour of the Bey, at which the latter sent a fairly irritated letter to the sultan concerning the kind of aid he had provided.

In the end, the siege was broken and the Turkish forces moved to Tlemcen and laid siege to it. Tlemcen is near to the Moroccan border, and both the scholarly people and the tribes there had close contacts with their neighbours. Thus they decided to break free from Turkish rule and proclaimed their allegiance to the Moroccan sultan.

According to the Moroccan historian Ahmed Nasiri (1843-1897), when Mohammed ibn Sharif took Tlemcen he significantly ordered the Khutba to be said in the name of the Sharifian Sultan Slimane ibn Mohammed.

Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi was still in Tlemcen and must have had a decisive influence. He was sent at the head of a delegation to the sultan with the message of allegiance.  The Turks now considered this to be a war between themselves and Morocco and were with an extra effort able to enter Tlemcen, fighting a pitched street-by-street battle with Ibn Sharif’s Darqawi forces.

Initially the sultan accepted the allegiance, but as the trial of strength was prolonged, he did not wish to commit forces in a head-on struggle with the Ottomans. So he sent a new delegation to Tlemcen to try to stop the fighting and to arrest Ibn Sharif if he did not desist. Shaykh Moulay al-Arbi, now back in Tlemcen, refused to support this, and called for the continuation of the struggle.

The delegation was however successful and relations between the two countries were re-established.  Fearing repression, many of the people of Tlemcen fled west cross the border and settled in the Bani Yaznasin (Snassen) tribe.

The Pasha of Algiers appealed to the sultan to send them back, nut now the sultan refused to cooperate and allowed the Tlemcenis to stay. However, Shaykh Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi was imprisoned because of his disobedience. When released, he was later confined to Fez.

The rebellion was apparently not at end, and eight years later Sidi Ibn Sharif was again able to inspire such fear in the Bey of Oran that he refused to travel to Tunis when requested so by his superior, as the rebel might come after him. In the same year (1228/1813), another letter of allegiance reached the sultan, this time from the people of Tlemcen, Oran, Mostaghanam and Balida, that is all of western Algeria.

However, we do not know what the response was. Shaykh ibn Sharif stayed in the neighbourhood of Oran and Tlemcen until 1228/1813, when the Dey dispatched another army that managed to divide ibn Sharif’s following and then defeat him. Ibn Sharif fled to Morocco and took refuge in Figuig where he later died.

Moulay al-Arbi himself, who had succeeded his own Master Moulay Ali in 1779, lived to be about eighty years old and died in 1823 in Bu Brih. When he died he enjoyed the veneration of all classes of Moroccan society.

As late as the beginning of twentieth century, it was not unusual for pilgrims to prove their devotion to Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi by walking barefoot from Fez to his tomb in the Bani Zarwal.

He was succeeded in Morocco by his son Moulay Tayeb Darqawi from whom the present Moroccan head of the order is descended. Moulay Tayeb was himself succeeded by his son Sidi Ali Darqawi; a prominent Qarawiyyine scholar who kept low public profile and thought esoteric science to a few disciples.

Another of Moulay al-Arbi successors was Sidi Mohammed al-Fasi, who founded one Darqawi in Cairo and another in Colombo. Many if not all of the Shadhiliya of Ceylon are in fact Darqawa and look to the Cairo centre of the Fasiya-Darqawiya as being their mother Zawiya.

Sidi Ali ibn Mawlay Tayyeb ibn Mawlay al-Arabi Darqawi

Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi undertook a vigorous expansion of the order in Morocco and Arabia. It would be even impossible to provide even a brief outline of the subsequent expansion of the Darqawi Order here. Several of his direct disciples became outstanding masters themselves and gave their names to new branches.

Among those of his disciples whom Moulay al-Arbi recognised as an autonomous (fard) Shaykh was Sidi Mohammed Bouzidi (d. 1229/1814), who was to have succeeded him but who died before him, and whose disciple Sidi Ahmed Ibn Ajiba (d. 1224/1804) was the author of some remarkable treaties.

The flowing of Darqawi brotherhoods was not limited to one or two generations in time; and in space it spread far beyond its original framework. In Morocco itself, the vitality of the Darqawa has remained so strong during the entire past century that it has being said that “the 19th century was the Darqawi century, jus as the 18th century had been the Nasiri century.”

The Tariqa has spread in North-Western Morocco through Sidi Ahmed ibn Ajiba (d. 1224/1804), Sidi Mohammed Harraq (d. 1261/1846), Sidi Abdellqadir ibn Ahmed ibn Ajiba (d. 1313/1898), Sidi Ahmed ibn Abdelmoumin Hassani (d. 1262/1847), Sidi Mohammed ibn as-Siddiq Hassani (d. 1354/1939), Sidi Mohammed Rwisi Hassani ();

in North-Easter Morocco through Sidi Abu Yaaza Mahaji, Sidi Mohammed ibn Qaddur Wakili, Sidi Mohammed al-Habri (d. 1313/1898), Sidi Mohammed Boudali, Sidi Mohammed Bouzaidi (d. 1327/1912), and Sidi Boumadyan Qadiri Boutshishi (d. 1375/1955); and in the south via Sidi Mohammed ibn Ali, Sidi Said ibn Hammou al-Ma’adiri, Sidi Ali Darqawi al-Ilighi, and Sidi al-Mokhtar Sussi (d. ).

The Darqawiya tradition has mushroomed in Fez throughout dozens of grand Shaykhs notably Sidi al-Haj Mohammed al-Khayyat (d. 1241/1826), Sidi Mohammed ibn Abdelhafidh Debbarh (d. 1291/1876), Sidi Omar ben Souda (d. 1285/1870), Sidi Mohammed Kattani (d. 1289/1874), Sidi Malek Zerhouni, Sidi Abdelkabir ibn Mohammed Kattani (d. 1333/1918), Sidi Abdelwahid Dabbagh, Sidi Ahmed Badawi Zwitan (d. 1275/1860), Sidi Mohammed al-Arbi Lamdaghri (d. 1309/1894),

Sidi Mohammed al-Fasi, Sidi Abul Qacem al-Wazir (d. 1213/1798), Sidi Ahmed ibn at-Talib ben Souda al-Muri (d. 1321/1906), Sidi al-Khadir Sejjai, Sidi Omar ibn Tayyeb al-Kattani, Sidi Mohammed ibn Jaafar Kattani (d. 1345/1930), Sidi Mohammed ibn Ahmed Hajjami (d. 1362/1947), Sidi Mohammed ibn al-Habib Filali (d. 1386/1971),

Sidi Taya’a ibn al-Mokhtar Manjra Hassani (d. 1371/1952), Sidi Mhammed Lahlou al-Fasi (d. after 1365/1950) and Sidi Mohammed ibn Abdelhay Kattani (d. 1382/1962). One can imagine the extent of spiritual life in Fez at the time of these masters and their numerous Tijanite counterparts who were based in Fez as well.

Darqawiya’s radiance was not held back by the boundaries of Morocco. During the same period, the Darqawa burgeoned in Algeria (Zawiya Mahajiya, Allawiya, and Belqaydiya), Sri Lanca and Egypt (Zawiya Fasiya), Tripolitania and Libya (Zawiya Madaniya), Palestine and Lebanon (Zawiya Yashturiya), Syria (Zawiya Alawiya-Tilimsaniya), and Jordan (Zawiya Alawiya-Filaliya).

The Alawiya, born in Algeria just before the First World War, has known such expansion that at the same time of Shaykh Sidi Ahmed Alawi’s death, in 1934, “the number of disciples in Algeria (including the North Africans living in Paris and Marseille, in Tunisia, in Yemen, in Abyssinia, in Syria, in Palestine and elsewhere greatly exceeded 200,000 from what has been said”.

Nor did this expansion stop with the Shaykh’s death since, most notably in Syria, the Alawiya have enjoyed a remarkable popularity under the direction of one of his representatives, Shaykh Sidi Hachimi Tilimsani (d. 1381/1966) and his student Sidi Abdellqadir Aissa (d. 1412/1997). Sidi Hachimi founded Alawi zawiyas in Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Latakia, and Amman.

In Aleppo, at some seasons even more than once a week, one may find as many as 5,000 Darqawa of this Alawi branch in congregated at the tomb of Prophet Sidna Zachariah (peace upon him) in the great Umayyad Mosque.