An important step in establishing the Shadhiliya in the Maghreb was taken when Abul Hassan inherited the title of Axis of the Age (Qutb az-zaman) from the Moroccan Sufi Sidi Abul Hajjaj al-Uqsuri (“Sabti al-‘Hussayni”; d. 642/1244). Abul Hajjaj, who presided over a ribat inside of the ancient temple of Amon a Luxor, had learned the doctrine of Abu Madyan from Sidi Abderrazaq Jazouli (d. 592/1177), teacher of Sidi Abu Salih Mohammed Majiri (d. 631/1216).

This highly popular Shaykh was an influential teacher of Maghribi and Andalusian mystics, who would visit him on their way to Mecca and Medina. By assuming the mantle of Abul Hajjaj in a ceremony of the “investiture of axis-hood” (bay’at al-mashyakha) attended by many of the latter’s disciples, Abul Hassan identified himself with Abu Madyan’s legacy and replaced al-Uqsuri as a resource for Moroccan and Andalusian pilgrims making their way to the Mashriq.

Shaykh Abul Hassan Shadhili’s appropriation of the so-called Madanite patched cloak (al-khirqa al-madaniya), the legacy of Abu Madyan Shuayb al-Ghawt (d. 594/1179), from Abul Hajjaj al-Uqsuri was more than just symbolic. By doing so, he assumed responsibility for Maghribi Sufi pilgrims on their journey from Cairo to Mecca.

His institutional role thus complemented that of the Hajujiyya pilgrims society of Morocco, which guaranteed the safety of Maghribi pilgrims as far as Egypt. Inheriting al-Uqsuri’s axis-hood also meant that Abul Hassan took on all of the other obligations that wearing al-khirqa al-madaniya implied.

These included responsibility for the followers of the way of Abu Madyan who visited or resided in Egypt. Apart from the Qadiriya (after Moulay Abdellqadir Jilani; d. 563/1148) Sufi order, it is hard to find any other tariqa that was to have such a widespread influence. By the end of the eight/fourteenth century, the network of Shadhili lodges (zawaya; sing, zawiya) extended from Iran to the Atlantic ocean.

Shaykh Abul Hassan: Founder of the Shadhiliya Order

The greater part of the life and teachings of the founder of the Shadhiliya Sufi order, Shaykh Tariqa wal Haqiqa, Sidi Abul Hassan Ali ibn Abdeljabbar Shadhili alIdrissi al-Hassani (d. 654/1258), founder of the Shadhiliya Sufi order is drawn from al-Lata’if al minan fi manaqib Abi al-Abbas al-Mursi wa Shaykhihi Abi al-Hassan (The subtle blessings in the saintly lives of Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi and his master Abu Abul Hassan Shadhili) by the Egyptian Sidi Ibn Ata’Allah of Alexandria (d. 709/1287), Durrat al-Asrar wa Tuhafat al-Abrar (The Pearl of the Secrets and the Treasure of the Righteous) by the Tunisian Sidi Ibn Mohammed ibn Abul Qasim al-Himyari Ibn as-Sabbagh (fl. 720/1305), Kitab ar-Rasa’il al-kubra (the Major Collection of the Letters) of Sidi Ibn Abbad ar-Rundi (d. 792/1377), and Kitab at-Taqyid fi tarjamat ahwal al-Shaykh Abi l-Hassan Ali bin ‘Abd Allah al-shahir bi l-Shadhili (The Record of the Biography and Spiritual States of Abul Hassan Shadhili) of the Fasite sharif Moulay Abd an-Nur al-Amrani (b. 685/1286).

Sidi Abul Hassan was born in Bani Yafrah in the region of Ghumara, near Tetouan (Titwan), in northern Morocco, in the year 593/1179, at a time when the Almohads had reached the end of their vigour. A sharif of Hassani-Idrissite decent, he was a Maliki who wandered far afield in search of knowledge.

Immensely learned, even as a young man, he was famous for his ability to engage in legal argumentation with the religious scholars of his day. As a young man Sidi Abul Hassan was hesitating between living the life of an ascetic in the wilderness in order to give himself up totally to worship and invocation, or to return to the towns and settlements to be in the company of the scholars and the righteous.

When he heard of a saintly man teaching Islamic sciences in the Al Qarawiyyine university of Fez he hastened to meet him and his life changed. This man was the Sufi and scholar Sidi Mohammed ibn Harazem (d. 633/1218), grandson of Sidi Abul Hassan Ali ibn Harzihim (d. 559/1144) and student of Sidi Abu Salih Mohammed Majiri (d. 631/1216), who had been instrumental in the orientation of Sidi Abul Hassan to seek the spiritual Pole of the time (Qutb az-Zaman).

Although Sidi Abul Hassan was born in the tribe of Akhmas in Ghumara, that is close to the Jabal al-Alam where his future Shaykh lived, he did not find him until he had travelled for some time at the age of twenty-five to the East. Hence about twenty years after Sidi Muhyi’d-Diin ibn Arabi (d. 636/1221) had left Fez for the Mashriq, Abul Hassan had migrated as well to study in Baghdad with Sidi Abu Fath al-Wasiti (d. ca. 642/1227), the master of Sidi Ahmed ar-Rifa’i (d. 678/1236). This latter informed him to come back to his village to find the master that he is looking for.

He therefore returned home, and found in the place described the famous spiritual master Moulay Abdessalam ibn Mashish (d. 622/1207), subsequently known as “the Pole of the West,” just as Moulay Abdellqadir Jilani (d. 563/1148) would be called “the Pole of the East.” Today the patron saint of Moroccan Sufism, Moulay Abdessalam was to earn lasting fame as Shadhili’s master of spiritual awakening (Shaykh al-fath).

While he was living with Shaykh Ibn Mashish, on the holy mountain, many wonderful signs from Allah came to Abul Hassan, through this holy Guide. One such sign was that on the night of his arrival on the mountain he was sleeping at the entrance of the cave where his master lived. He dreamt that he was asking the Shaykh to grant him certain wishes, one of them being that Allah would incline the hearts of His creatures in favour towards him.

Then he wished to ask his master if it was necessary for him to live in solitude, or in the desert, in order for him to be in the right station (maqam) to perform his religious tasks, or whether he should return to the towns and inhabited places to seek out the company of scholars and virtuous people.

While he was turning these things in his heart he heard the Shaykh praying fervently and calling out, “O God, there are people who ask You to give them power over your creatures, and You give them that. But I, O God, beg You to turn Your creatures from me so that I may have no refuge except in You.”

The next morning, when he greeted his teacher to be, he asked him of his state (kayf al-hal), to which Ibn Mashish responded, “I complain unto God about the coolness of contentment and submission (bard al-rida wa al-taslim) just as you complain unto Him about the heat of self-direction and choice (harr al-tadbir wa al-ikhtiyar).” When he saw the astonishment on his student’s face at hearing his words, he added, “Because I fear that the sweetness of such an existence would make me neglectful of my duty towards Allah.” Then Abul Hassan said, “This is the Pole of Islam. This is the Sea which overflows.” He knew then that his master had taken hold of his whole heart, and he was thereby completely illumined.

Then one day, as he sat in the presence of Moulay Abdessalam who had his young son on his knees playing and enjoying himself, the thought came to him to ask him about the Greatest Name of Allah.

He said that at that moment the child who sat on his father’s knees put his hands on his shoulders and shook him, saying, “O Abul Hassan, you want to ask about the Greatest Name of Allah. It is of no importance to ask about the Greatest Name of Allah. It is important that you should be the Greatest Name of Allah.”

When his son had finished speaking, the master smiled and said, “Such a one has answered you for me.” Four fundamental themes ran through the teaching of Moulay Abdessalam to Abul Hassan, as perceived from his famous Hizb, called as-Salat al-Mashishiya: The Oneness of Existence (wahdat al-wujud) which he said could be realised only through asceticism, fear of God and His judgements (khawfu billah), the belief that God is everywhere and that it is necessary to see His Face in everything that He has created, and fourthly, that only through the drowning in the Ocean of the Unity (awnu fi bahri al-wahadati) can the seeker cast off and leave behind his own existence and attributes to be merged and absorbed into Allah and His Attributes.

Before his departure from Jabal al-Alam, Moulay Abdessalam foretells his student’s eventual move to Ifriqiya where he will become known by the name of Shadhili and the eminent spiritual station he will eventually inherit from Moulay Abdessalam himself. Abul Hassan relates that in a dream, he saw his master standing near the Divine Throne, when he tells him this in the morning Ibn Mashish replies, “O Ali, it was not me you saw, it was the station you will inherit from me.”

The parting words of advice and admonition that Moulay Abdessalam gives his disciple before he departs for Tunis emphasised on the transformation of consciousness to inward and outward God-centeredness, contentment with God in all states, and the inner withdrawal from creation in prosperity and adversity. These seminal teachings of Moulay Abdessalam would, through Abul Hassan, become the foundational precepts of Tariqa Shadhiliya,

O Ali, God is God, and men are men. When you are amongst the people, keep your tongue from mentioning the Sirr (secret) and your heart from imitating their ways. Be assiduous in the fulfilment of the mandatory practices of the religion and protect your bodily members from forbidden things. In you the role of sainthood will have reached fruition. Only admonish others to the degree that is obligatory upon you. And say, “O God, give me repose from their mention [of me] and from any obstacles arising from them.

Deliver me from their evil. Let Your bounty suffice me from [having to seek] their bounty, and protect me among them by Your special grace. Verily, You have power over all things… O Ali, flee from men’s benevolence more than you flee from their malevolence. Because their benevolence will afflict your heart, while their evil will only afflict your body, and it is better that the body be afflicted than the heart.

In Tunis Abul Hassan entered a new retreat in a cave on top of Jabal Zaghwan close to Shadhila accompanied by his first companion Sidi Abu Yahya Abdellah ibn Samala al-Habibi. Abul Hassan went out in 640/1225 on preaching and teaching tours founding his Way and thereby incurring the hostility of many Tunisian scholars. During his early years in Tunis, Abul Hassan first founded his way around forty of his students who were known as the forty friends (al-awliya al-arba’un).

He sought to ensure the survival of his nascent order by recruiting well-connected citizens as disciples. These included the brother of Sultan Abu Zakariyya (d. 647/1232), the secretary of qadi al-jama’a of Tunis, and the administration of Hafsid treasury. Formal relations were also established between Abul Hassan and the leaders of at least two Berber villages, as well as with other Sufis in the environs of the Hafsid capital.

So bitter did the persecution of scholars become that, in spite of the support of the Sultan Abu Zakariyya, he was driven to take refuge in Egypt where he spent most of his years and won great renown. Upon Abul Hassan’s departure to Egypt, the direction of the Tunisian branch of Shadhiliya was taken over by one of the Shaykh’s closest friends and earliest disciples, the sharif Sidi Abul Hassan Siqilli (d. 657/1242).

In addition to the ribat in Tunis, another centre was maintained in al-Qayrawan by Sidi Abu Mohammed ibn Salama al-Habibi. This person may have been related to Shadhili’s first disciple from Jabal Zaghwan Sidi Abu Mohammed al-Habibi.

Accordingly, Abul Hassan Shadhili, together with some of his followers, journeyed to Egypt, arriving in Alexandria where they were greeted with being detained in the military camp by an order of the Sultan of Egypt. This was because the Tunisian scholar Ibn al-Bara had sent a message warning the Sultan that the Shaykh was a dangerous man who would stir up trouble in his country.

However, Allah, the All-Mighty, intervened, bringing proof to him and all those around him, that the Shaykh, far from being a troublemaker, was a person of great spiritual power, intent only to make peace for all the people wherever Allah, the All-Mighty, sent him to be.

Then after a few days Sidi Abul Hassan was able to leave Egypt with his followers, and to fulfil the pilgrimage, after which he returned to Tunis. There he remained for a number of years until one day God Most High brought him the young man who was to become his successor and the inheritor of his station and his holy line.

This was Sidi Abul Abbas al-Mursi (d. 686/1271). As soon as the Shaykh looked at the face of this young man from Murcia, Spain, he said, “Truly no one has brought me back to Tunis except this person.” Soon after this, Abul Hassan was given the order to move to Egypt, which would be his final home, about which he  said:

I saw the Prophet,  peace and blessing be upon him, in a dream and he said to me, “Oh Ali, go to Egypt and raise up forty true followers (siddiqun) there.” It was summer time and intensely hot and I said, “Oh Prophet of God, the heat is very great.” He said, “Lo, the clouds will give you shade.” I said, “I fear thirst.” He replied, “Look, the sky will rain for you every day.” He promised me many miraculous gifts (karamat) on my journey. So I instructed my followers to prepare to depart to Egypt.”

One of the gifts which he had been promised and was shown was that he had become the Qutb of his time. So it was that in the year 646/1231, when he was fifty years old, Sidi Abul Hassan Shadhili entered Egypt and took up his residence in Alexandria where he lived for the rest of his life. He set himself up with his family and followers in one of the great towers rising from the walls surrounding the city. When asked of his own spiritual master he responded:

“For a long time I was attached to the Shaykh Abu Muhammad ibn Mashish, but now I am swimming in ten seas: five of the descendants of Adam and five of angelic beings (ruhaniyin). The descendants of Adam are the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and the four Caliphs after him; the spiritual beings are Jibril, Mika‘il, Israfil, ‘Azra’il, and the Spirit.”

He also related: “When God rent the veil [of manifestation] from me, I said, “O God, veil Yourself from me as You have veiled Yourself from Your creation.” To which God replied, “If you asked me in the manner Moses, My spokesman (kalimi), asked me, or like Jesus, My spirit (ruhi), asked or Mohammed, My attribute (sifati), I would not veil Myself from you; rather ask Me to strengthen you.” So I asked Him to strengthen me, and now by God, were He to be veiled from me for the blink of an eye I would die.”

The tariqa that Shaykh Abul Hassan established was based on the metaphysical and spiritual contents of the Islamic doctrine of the absolute Oneness of Allah (tawhid). The goal of his path was the gnostic realisation of Allah, gnosis (ma’rifa) implying perfect wisdom and holiness of soul in the contemplative. The ma’rifa he reproached reposed on simple faith, on the strictures of the shari’a, and the dogmatic formulations of Ash’arism as regards creed.

Although the gnosis in question also had cosmological implication in a spiritual sense, it was in no way enshrouded  in the complex philosophical nations of wahdat al-wujud (Oneness of Being) advocated by Sidi Muhyi’d-Diin ibn Arabi (d. 636/1221), although the Shadhili masters defended the Shaykh al-Akbar against his detractors, particularly against Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1313), the Hanbali canonist of later times.

Moreover, the tawhid, taught by Sidi Abul Hassan carried with it the implication of “remembering God” (dhikr), or the invocation of the Divine Name Allah (al-Ism al-Mufrad), the prime spiritual art of concentration in Sufism. The two, tawhid and dhikr, constituted the essential pillars of his way, the former with respect to doctrine, the latter with respect to spiritual methodology.

But dikhr was not all. In discussing the four-fold nature of his Sufi path and the spiritual typology of each aspirant upon these paths along with the degree upon which each is founded and fruit of each of the four,

The most direct path to God is founded upon four things. He who accomplishes them [all] is one of the true mystics, well-versed in the secrets of reality (siddiqin muhaqqiqin). He who accomplishes three of them is one of the friends of God (wali) who have been drawn near to Him. He who accomplishes two of them is one of the firmly believing martyrs (shuhada’). He who accomplishes one of them is one of the upright servants of God.

The first of these four is remembrance (dhikr), the degree (bisat) of which is righteous works, and the fruit of which is illumination. The second is meditation (tafakkur), the degree of which is perseverance, and the fruit of which is knowledge (‘ilm). The third is spiritual poverty (faqr) the degree of which is thankfulness, and the fruit of which is an increase in it. The fourth is love (mahabba), the degree of which is disdain for the world and those of it, and the fruit of which is union with the beloved.

Yet it was not in these four elements that one can discern a difference in his Sufi order and the others of his day or earlier: they were all more or less based on the same Quran or Sunna of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him), on the same Islamic teachings and practices as seen from an esoteric viewpoint, varying only in emphasis or accents and applications.

True, the gnostic teachings of the Shadhiliya set them apart from the orders that sets devotionalism and asceticism carried to great lengths; but there were, of course, other orders of the day, such as the Qadiriya, the Shadhiliya, and the like, that were gnostic also and that approached things from an intellectual, not an emotional or sentimental, attitude.

Rather, it was in the external self-effacement of the early Shadhilis that we must look for differences and constructs with other Sufi communities of the times. There was a reason for that effacement of the faqir in the professional world around him: the rule of the early Shadhilis was that all members of the order must gain their livelihood through the exercise of a trade or a profession.

They were not to flee from the world to lead a contemplative life as recluses; rather, they followed the thoughtful life in the very midst of society, in their actual professions or trades.

Those disciples who had no means of livelihood were frowned upon. All in all, the Shadhili way was a kind of remanifistation of the dhikr, tafakkur, faqr, and mahabba, of the early Islamic community in the time of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him), when there were no distinguishing marks among the Muslims that separated the contemplatives from the faithful who followed a life of action: the inner life of the spirit was emphasised, while externally everyone seemed to follow his own particular calling in the world.

It is for this reason that the historical traces of the Shadhilis in early times are impossible to track down in al-Andalus, Morocco, Tunisia, and elsewhere, unless one already knows in advance the names of certain masters or of their disciples [e.g. Sidi Abd an-Nur al-Amrani (b. 685/1286), Sidi Ibn Abbad ar-Rundi (d. 792/1377). Shortly before he passed away, in 656/1241, Shaykh Abul Hassan designated Sidi Abul Abbas al-Mursi (d. 686 as his successor in the order. Shorter before he died, the Shaykh said,

Sidi Abul Abbas al-Mursi was born in Murcia, al-Andalus, in the year 616/1220, the same city that witnessed the births of Sidi Muhyi’d-Diin ibn Arabi (d. 636/1221) and Sidi Abdelhaq ibn Sab’in (d. 669/1254), this last coming into the world only a few years before al-Mursi himself. At the age of the year twenty-four, Sidi al-Mursi set out for the pilgrimage to Mecca with his family, but his ship foundered the Algerian coast.

He lost his parents in the calamity, and he narrowly escaped death by swimming to shore with his brother. After wandering for a while in the Maghreb, they finally encountered Shaykh Abul Hassan and joined his order. Shortly afterward, in the year 642/1227, the Shaykh moved the centre of his tariqa from Tunis to Alexandria.

In Egypt, Sidi al-Mursi, proved to be what the Shaykh had anticipated and became a teacher of the path himself. After Shaykh Abul Hassan’s death, Sidi al-Mursi moved to into the great tower that the founder of the Shadhiliya had used as residence, mosque, and zawiya, and remained there until his death some thirty years later. , seldom never moving out to travel about in Egypt.

Whereas Shaykh Abul Hassan Shadhili had no regret in mind to in mingling with the officials of state in his days, if he left that some just cause could be served thereby, Shaykh Abul Abbas al-Mursi was made of a different cloth altogether and would have nothing to do with officials of any kind, refusing all provisions or stipends offered him by the Mamluks.

Occasionally he ventured forth to Cairo, like his teacher, to lecture on Sufism before the principle religious scholars of his day, but in general he occupied himself with the affairs of the tariqa until his death.  Also like his master, he wrote no book or treaties on Sufism and considered all such works to be nothing but foam cast up on the shores of the infinite ocean of spiritual realisation; but, like his teacher, he did compose ahzab, some of which are  still in recitation.

Perhaps the most widely known of his disciples in the Islamic world at large is the legendary Sidi Sharafuddin Ahmed al-Busairi Sanhaji (d. 694/1279), the Egyptian poet of Moroccan origin who is famous for his two great poems in praise of the Prophet Sidna Mohammed (peace and blessing be upon him), the “Mantle Poem” (al-Burda) and the Hamziya, both of which are recited every year on the Prophet birthday.

The other great Sufi disciples of Shaykh al-Mursi are not well known in the Islamic world, but they play an important role in Near Easter Sufism. Among them is Shaykh Yaqut al-Arshi (d. 732/1317), the Alexandrian teacher of Abyssinian origins whom the Moroccan adventurer Ibn Battuta visited him in 725/1310 during his travels in the East. Still another was Shaykh Najmuddin Isfahani (d. 721/1306), the Persian disciple of al-Mursi, who whose long residence at Mecca spread the Shadhili order among the pilgrims.

He was the Shadhili teacher of the Sufi al-Yafi’i (d. 768/1353), and it was through the latter that the Shi’ite Sufi order of the Niamatullahiya is connected with the Shadhiliya. Finally, there was Sidi Ahmed ibn Ata’Allah al-Iskandari (d. 709/1294), who is the third imminent Shadhili master in most of the chains of transmission for the order, but who is also the first of the early teachers to write down the doctrines of the order in books that have since become indispensable for understanding the perspectives of Tariqa Shadhiliya .

The early Shadhilis were concerned not only with the teachings and practices of Sufism but also with the Shari’a and the creedal forms of belief, or with what is usually called exoteric Islam. They were Sunni Muslims who tended to favour the Ash’arite school of theology, one of the more important currents of creedal formulations in Islam. The Shadhilis were also based on the Maliki school of jurisprudence, and this association between the two would continue largely undisturbed down to the present day.

Not only was the founder of the order a Maliki, but the Maghreb, in which Shadhilism first saw the light of day, was a vast region stretching from the Andalus to the Libyan desert near Egypt that was uniformly Maliki in coloration. In many ways, the Shadhili path was a reform in the spiritual and religious sense of the word. It was not an iconoclastic or puritanical reform that brutally sought to destroy the external institutions of Islam in the name of a return to the ways of the pious ancestors (salaf).

But in its own way, it did point an accusatory finger at the exaggerated formation and literalism of the exoteric Islam of those days, just as it also had something to say against the armies of ascetics and wandering fuqara, who moved under the banners of Sufism and who could not all be sincere treaders of the path, to say the least.

Perhaps out of all the great Sufi orders that saw the light of day in seventh/thirteenth century, the Shadhiliya most conformed not simply to normative Sufism, but also to normative Islam, if only because the Shadhili initiates, unlike those of other orders, never stood out in the midst of the faithful and could thus easily pass unperceived more or less like the early Muslim contemplatives to Umayyad times, when Islam was still pristine and fresh.

Given that the Shadhiliya have always considered their tariqa to possess a central role in the unfolding of the spiritual life of the community, the Shaykh Abul Hassan Shadhili have actually affirmed that the Ghawt (Qutb az-zaman) would always be found among his fold. Moroccans had the lion share of the promise.

This is according to the Hadith, “A group of my community will remain on truth in the Maghreb until Allah commands.” Among the Moroccan Shadhilis who gained reputation with the Qutbaniya al-Udhma (Absolute General Authorization) are the following:

Sidi Abul Abbas al-Mursi (d. 686/1271), Sidi Mohammed al-Jazouli (d. 869/1454 in Marrakech), Sidi Abdellaziz Tabba’a (d. 914/1499 in Marrakech), Sidi Abdelkarim al-Fallah (d. 933/1518 in Marrakech), Sidi Abdellah Ghazwani (d. 935/1520 in Marrakech), Sidi Ahmed ou Moussa Samlali al-Hassani (d. 991/1576 in Tazrerwalt), Sidi Mohammed Bou’abid Sharqi al-Umara (d. 1010/1595 in Boujad), Sidi Mhammed Ben Nasir Dar’i (d. 1085/1674 in Tamgrut), Moulay Abdellah Sharif Wazzani (d. 1089/1674 in Wazzan), Sidi Mohammed b. Abdellah Wazzani (d. 1120/1705 in Wazzan), Sidi Tuhami b. Mohammed Wazzani (d. 1127/1712 in Wazzan), Sidi al-Mu’ati b. Salih Sharqi al-Umari (“Author of Dakhirat al-Muhtaj”; d. 1180/1765 in Boujad), Sidi Tayyeb b. Mohammed Wazzani (d. 1181/1766 in Wazzan), Moulay Ahmed b. Tayyeb Wazzani (d. 1195/1780 in Wazzan).

While it is important to take into account the limitations of hagiographical anthologies as sources of data (e.g. Kitab Salwat al-Anfas), gnostics rely on spiritual insight (al-kashf). Al-Khalifa Harazem said in Kitab Jawahir al-ma’ani wa-bulugh al-amani fi fayd Sidi Abil al-Abbas at-Tijani (Gems of Indications and Attainment of Aspirations in the Overflowings of Sidi Abil Abbas Tijani):

Among the evidence for the completeness of his insight (i.e. Sidna Shaykh Tijani), the strength of his light and the perfection of his intimate knowledge, one element is the nature of his reporting about the saints of the past, including the most distinguished figures, for he (may Allah be pleased with him) would seem to have been the contemporary of each one of those concerned. He provided information about several of them, and described them in a manner inductive of their spiritual station and of the special quality bestowed on each one by Allah.

If someone asked him about one of the saints, he would tell him about his spiritual state, his station, and his attainment, and whether or not he was among those invested with full power of disposal, as if he could see the quality of his spiritual state, with his own eyes. (…) I heard our master mention most of those who were entrusted with the Qutbaniya after the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) until our own time.

He described the condition of each one he mentioned including the lofty stations and splendid spiritual states that he acquired, each in accordance with the extent to which his Master favoured him, preferred him and approved of him.

The Moroccan Shadhiliya

It was more than half a century after the death of Abul Hassan Shadhili before the influence of Egyptian Shadhilism was felt in Morocco. In the year 745/1344, one Sidi Abu Uthman al-Hassani, a Shadhili Sufi and sharif who had studied in Egypt, was reported to be in attendance at the court of Sultan Abul Hassan al-Marini.

This person was a disciple of Sidi Abdellah ibn Dawud Shadhili, whose father, Sidi Dawud ibn Omar al-Bakhili (d. 733/1318), have been a prominent disciple of Sidi Ahmed Ibn Ata’Allah Sakandari (d. 709/1294). Another disciple of Dawud al-Bakhili, Sidi Mohammed Wafa (d. 765/1350), was the grandfather of the author of Shajarat al-irshad. The doctrines of Egyptian Shadhilism appear to have first entered Morocco through the influence of the Andalusian Sufi Sidi Ibn Abbad ar-Rundi (1331-1390).

This noted ascetic served as the imam of the Al Qarawiyyine mosque in Fez and wrote the first commentary in Morocco of Ibn Ata’Allah’s Kitab al-Hikam. Three of Ibn Ata’Allah’s works could be found in Morocco by the middle of the fourteenth century. These works were introduced to Ibn Abbad by his teacher in Ronda, Sidi Ibrahim Shandarukh. This Andalusian Sufi and jurist served as imam of the congregational mosque of Ronda between the years 750-1/1335-6 and ended his days in the Moroccan city of Salé.

At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the Shadhiliya brotherhood was closely associated with political and intellectual elites of the Maghreb. This was to be expected, since Sidi Abul Hassan Shadhili, Sidi Abul Abbas al-Mursi (d. 686/1271), Sidi Abd an-Nur al-Amrani (b. 685/1286), Sidi Madi ibn Sultan (d. 718/1318) and Sidi Ibn Abbad ar-Rundi (d. 792/1377), all made a point of attracting followers from the upper classes of urban society.

Almost without exception, the Shadhili Sufis who appear in the biographies of the later Marinid period are ulama, courtiers, or sharifs. In the rare cases where one finds an exception to this rule, the person in question is mostly likely to be a skilled craftsperson or a vendor of luxury goods. This absence of a lower-class following indicates that the leaders of Shadhiliya in Tunis, Tlemcen, and Fez were primarily concerned with presenting their order as an alternative to the other elite Sufi orders of the Maghreb, such as the Sahrawardiya.

To become fully integrated into the social life of the region, the Shadhiliya needed a doctrinal orientation that would appeal to people from all levels of society and enable it to transcend its patrician origins. This would be provided by Sidi Mohammed ibn Slimane Jazouli (d. 869/1454 in Ribat Afughal but buried later in Marrakech) and Sidi Ahmed Zarruq al-Fasi (d. 899/1484 in Tripoli, Libya). The ramification of these two shaykhs mushroomed in the major centres and subcentres of Morocco and the Maghreb.

Each from his position, the branches of the Jazouliya divided into many twigs: al-Qutb Sidi Abdellaziz at-Tabba’a (d. 914/1499), al-QutbSidi Abdellah al-Ghazwani (d. 935/1520), al-Qutb Sidi Abdelkarim al-Fallah (d. 933/1518), Sidi Abdellah ibn Hussayn Amghari (d. 977/1562) in Marrakech, al-Qutb Sidi Ahmed ou Moussa Simlali al-Hassani (d. 991/1576) in Tazarwalt, Sidi Ahmed ou Mbarak al-Aqqawi (d. 924/1509), Sidi Said al-Hahi (d. 953/1538), Sidi Abu Bakr ibn Mohammed Majjati Dilai (d. 1021/1606), Sidi Mohammed Ibn Abi Bakr Dilai (d. 1046/1631) in Dila’, al-Qutb Sidi Mohammed Bou’abid Sharqi (d. 1010/1595) in Tadla, Sidi Abdellah Benhassoun (d. 1013/1598) and Sidi Ahmed Hajji Slawi (d. 1121/1706) in Rabat; Sidi Ali Salih Andalusi (d. 903/1488), Sidi Mohammed Misbahi (d. 964/1549), Sidi Radwan Ibn Abdellah Janwi (d. 991/1576),

Sidi Bouchta al-Khammar (d. 997/1582), Sidi al-Hassan ibn Aissa Jazouli (d. 992/1577), Sidi Ahmed ibn Abdellah al-Murabbi (d. 1034/1619) in Fez; Sidi Abul Abbas Ahmed Harithi, Sidi Saghir Sahli, Sidi Abdelwarith al-Yaslouti (d. 970/1555), and Sidi al-Hadi Ben Aissa (d. 933/1518 in Meknes; Sidi Yusuf ibn al-Hassan Talidi (d. 950/1535), Sidi Abderrahman ben Raysoun (d. 950/1536), Sidi Abdellah al-Habti (d. 963/1548) and the Qutb, Moulay Abdellah Shrif Wazzani (d. 1089/1674) in Ghumara and Jbala mountains. Moulay Abdellah Sharif’s network of initiation contains the great Fasi names of Sidi Qacem ben Rahmun (d. 1249/1834) and Sidi Mohammed al-Khayyat Ruq’i (d. 1115/1700) as well as his blessed offspring (known as “Dar Dmana; House of Guarantee): Sidi Mohammed ibn Sidi Abdellah Wazzani (d. 1120/1705), Sidi Tuhami ibn Mohammed Wazzani (d. 1127/1712), Sidi Tayyeb ibn Mohammed Wazzani (d. 1181/1766), and Moulay al-Arbi ibn Ali Wazzani (d. 1266/1851), Sidi Ahmed ibn Tayyeb Wazzani (d. 1195/1780), Sidi Ali ibn Ahmed Wazzani (d. 1226/1811), Moulay al-Arbi ibn Ali Wazzani (d. 1266/1851) and Moulay Abdessalam ibn Arbi Wazzani (d. 1310/1895). The Wazzaniya by itself pushed the order throughout Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia as far away as Egypt, Mali, and even Mecca.

The Jazouliya seems to have arisen largely as the powerful devotional manifestation of love for the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him), as we can see in his well known litany on the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him), Dalail al-Khayrat, which has been recited since his day in great parts of the Islamic world.

By then, the spiritual substance of Morocco was in need of powerful symbol to allow it to dedicate itself once again to the roots of its collective well-being. And what more regenerative a source could be than the love of the Prophet Sidna Mohammed (peace and blessing be upon him)? Especially was this the case in view of the jihad that was then going on against the Portuguese colonies on the coast that threatened the security of Dar al-Islam. But also —and this needs to be stressed— the devotional passion generated by the Dalail al-Khayrat, was a testimony to its otherworldly origins; and thus it was a kind of divine message that the Jazouliya were destined to spread over other Islamic lands.

The Shadhilite stem of Sidi Ahmed Zarruq al-Fasi had essentially flourished in Morocco through the students of his Algerian disciple, the venerated Qutb, Sidi Ahmed ibn Yusuf al-Malyani (d. 929/1514); namely, Sidi Mohammed Sahli, Sidi Zubir ibn Lakbir al-Fasi, Sidi Omar Sharif Hussayni al-Fasi, and Sidi Ali ibn Abdellah Filali.

The most important branches of the Tariqa are figured in the webs established in (1) Figuig: Sidi Abdellqadir Shaykh Smahi (d. 1025/1610), Sidi Shaykh Bouamama , Sidi Ahmed Ben Shaykh ; (2) Sijilmasa (Errachidia): Sidi Abul Qacem ibn Ahmed Ghazi, Sidi Abul Qacem Sawma’i Zamrani (d. 1013/1598), Sidi Abdellah ibn Hussayn Maslouhi ar-Raqi (d. 977/1562); (3) Dar’a valley: Sidi Ahmed ibn Ali Dar’i, Sidi Abdellah ar-Raqi, Sidi Mhammed ibn Mohammed Ibn Nasir(d. 1085/1670), Sidi Ahmed Ben Nasir(d. 1129/1723 in Fez), Sidi Yusuf Ben Nasir Dar’i (d. 1187/1772); (4) Fez: Sidi Ahmed ibn Yahya Lamti (d. 985/1570), Sidi Ali ibn Mohammed Susi (d. 1004/1589), Sidi Ahmed Shawi (d. 1o14/1599), the Imam Sidi Mohammed ibn Atiyya (d. 1052/1637), Sidi Mohammed ibn Ali ad-Darik (d. 1059/1644), and Sidi al-Hassan ibn Masoud al-Yusi (d. 1102/1687).

Sidi Abdellah ibn Ibrahim al-Fahham Zerhouni (d. 939/1524), the second most important disciple of Sidi Ahmed Zarruq, is the origin of another important bough mainly present in Fez. Throughout the ramifications of this line, from the first disciples to their assistant down to the board layers of the laymen followers, divine grace spreads by God’s permission in the holy city of Fez. Sidi Abul Mahasin Yusuf al-Fasi Fihri (d. 1013/1598), a disciple of the baraka of Meknes, Sidi Abderrahman al-Majdoub (d. 976/1561), stands on top.

Al-Fasi’s order attracted the cream of ulama, sharifs, and intellectuals. He was succeeded by his brother, the al-Qarawiyyine legend, Sidi Abderrahman al-Fasi (d. 1027/1612), who headquartered himself in the zawiya of the Laqlaqliyyine in the Racif district. Sidi Abderrahman was succeeded by both his cousin, the Supreme Allama of Africa and Arabia, Sidi Abdellqadir al-Fasi (d. 1091/1676), and the sober mystic Sidi Mohammed ibn Abdellah Ma’in al-Andalusi (d. 1062/1647), whose zawiya creamed the names of Sidi Qasim Khassasi (d. 1083/1668), Sidi Ahmed ibn Abdellah al-Fasi al-Andalusi (d. 1129/1714).

Sidi Ahmed ibn Abdellah Ma’in was the Ghawt of His Time and one of the masters of Moulay Abdellaziz ibn Masoud Debbarh (on whom Kitab Al-Ibriz was written; d. 1132/1717). In Addition to Sidi Qacem Khassasi, Sidi Ahmed had Sidi Ahmed ibn Mohammed Qadiri al-Yamani (d. 1113/1689) as a master.

This is also liked to Shaykh Debbarh’s chain since he took from the great Nigerian Qutb, Sidi Abdellah ibn Abdelkarim al-Barnawi (d. 1129/1714), who came from Barno to Fez to support Moulay Abdellaziz Debbarh after his first fath (opening; dated the 8th of Rajab 1125/1710), as did Sidi Ahmed Yamani who who entered Fez to support  Sidi Ahmed ibn Abdellah after his master’s pass in 1083/1668. The latter’s chain descends downline to Sidi Ali al-Jamal Amrani (d. 1193/1778) through his son Sidi Abdellah ibn al-Arbi al-Fasi al-Andalusi (d. 1188/1778).

If we look at the causes that might have given rise to the Zarruqiya, named after its founder Shaykh Sidi Ahmed Zarruq al-Fasi (d. 899/1484), they probably have to do with the restoration of piety and conformity to the Dine Law (Shari’a). Not only was the Shaykh an indefatigable commentator on Kitab al-Hikam (The Aphorisms) of Sidi Ibn Ata’Allah Sakandari al-Misri (d. 709/1294), writing something like thirty glosses, but he was also a great traveller.

Wherever he went, inspired the strict observance of the Shari’a as a necessary accessory to the thoughtful path. His works on Sufism, like Kitab Qawaid at-Tasawwuf (The Principles of Sufism), demonstrate a careful regard for legal rules that strikes one at first glance as inappropriate in a meditative esoterist, but, after reflection, once distinguishes here and there in his book that he is seeking to re-establish some kind of balance between the Shari’a and the Haqiqa, so that neither of the two will impinge on the other’s domain.

The Zarruqiya, no doubt, considered the balancing of Sufism and the Shari’a as crucial quality in the would-be-faqir, something that he had to be aware of, or something that he had to incorporate.

The branching out of different orders from the original Shadhili trunk also implied adaptations to a variety of spiritual vocations although the Shadhiliya retained through the centuries of a characteristic intellectual orientation, with time, some of the orders, like the Aissawiya, established by the tenth/sixteenth century master Sidi al-Hadi Ben Aissa (“Shaykh al-Kamil,” d. 933/1518), were Malammati-oriented and barely intellectual in nature.

Like the Qadirite Jilala or the Shadhilite ‘Hmadsha (after Sidi Ali ibn Hamdush al-Alami; d. 1131/1716), the Aissawiya engaged in practices designed to demonstrate the immunity of their adherents to fire, swords, scorpions, and so on.

No doubt all of this had a certain disciplinary function with some of the Majdubs (fools in God) of the order; but sooner or later, the pursuit of such immunities became an end in itself, so that the order was reduced simply to a kind of exhibitionism in the minds of many Muslim.

It drew into its ranks a particular mentality, not only in Morocco, of course, where it originated, but also in Egypt and elsewhere. It is generally the likes of the Aissawiya that, on a popular plane, give to Sufism a circuslike ambiance that was certainly not intended by its founders. But it was easy for the critics of Sufism, particularly the ulama of puritanical twisted, to point to such orders as examples of the deviations and subversions of Islam which Sufism produces.

Nevertheless, and whatever might be the opinions of the straight-laced believers and scholars concerning such orders, the served the purpose of integrating into Sufism various classes of society that might otherwise have been left out of its zones altogether. In any case, not all such deeds as characterize the Aissawiya, for example, can be attributed to motivations that are incompatible with the spiritual life: everything depends on the teacher and how such unusual practices are seen by him within the deeper perspective of the order. Without him, of course, the practices yield easily to the charge of charlatanism or fraud and lose their real value.

The Zarruqite Fasiya tradition was revived at the end of the eighteenth century by Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi (1239/1823) who took it in the Zawiya of Lablida from his master Sidi Ali Amrani (al-Jamal). Several disciples of Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi were already active as masters in different parts of the Maghreb when he died at 1823:

Sidi al-Haj Mohammed al-Khayyat (d. 1241/1826), Sidi Abdelhafidh Debbarh, Sidi Omar ben Souda (d. 1285/1870), Sidi Mohammed Kattani (d. 1289/1874), Sidi Malek Zerhouni, Sidi Ahmed Badawi Zwitan al-Fasi (d. 1275/1860), Sidi Mohammed ibn Abdelhafidh Debbarh (d. 1291/1876), Sidi Abul Qacem al-Wazir (d. 1213/1798), Sidi Mohammed Bouzidi (d. 1229/1814), Sidi Ahmed Ibn Ajiba (d. 1224/1804), Sidi Mohammed Harraq (d. 1261/1846), Sidi Ahmed ibn Abdelmoumin Hassani (d. 1262/1847), Sidi Mohammed ibn Ali Murrakushi, Sidi Ali Darqawi al-Ilighi  (d. 1328/1913). The productivity of these master fed Moroccan spirituality for many generations: Sidi Abdelkabir ibn Mohammed Kattani (d. 1333/1918), Sidi Mohammed al-Arbi Lamdaghri (d. 1309/1894), Sidi Mohammed Rwisi, Sidi Ahmed ibn at-Talib ben Souda al-Muri (d. 1321/1906), Sidi al-Khadir Sejjai, Sidi Mohammed al-Habri (d. 1313/1898), 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), Sidi Mohammed ibn Abdelhay Kattani (d. 1382/1962), and Sidi al-Mokhtar Susi (d. 1378/1963).

The last-born Shadhili trunk was founded by Shaykh Moulay al-Arbi Darqawi al-Idrissi al-Hassani (1239/1823) who brought about a sudden great flowering of Sufism in Morocco and  beyond. Darqawiya’s radiance was not held back by the boundaries of Morocco. During the same period, the Darqawa burgeoned in Algeria (Zawiya of Sidi Ahmed al-Alawi in Mostaghanam and Sidi Mohammed Belqayad in Oran), Sri Lanca, Egypt, Tripolitania, (Zawiya of Sidi Mohammed Dhafir Madani), Palestine Syria, Lebanon (Zawiya of al-Yashturi), and Jordan (Zawiya of Sidi Mustapha Filali).

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 1349/1934, the number of disciples in Algeria (including the Maghribis living in Paris and Marseille, Tunisia, Yemen, Abyssinia, Syria, in Palestine and elsewhere greatly exceeded 200,000.

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, Sidi Hachimi Tilimsani (d. 1381/1966) and his student Sidi Abdellqadir Aissa (d. 1412/1997). Sidi Hachimi founded Darqawi zawiyas in Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Latakia, and Amman.

source: dar-sirr.com