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Shaykh Ahmad Al Alawi: Layla

Shaykh Ahmad Al Alawi: Layla
Photo: Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi was born in Mostaganem, Algeria, in 1869. He was first educated at home by his father. From the time of his father's death in 1886 until 1894, he worked in Mostaganem and followed the Aissawiyya order. In 1894, he traveled to Morocco, and followed for fifteen years the Darqawi shaykh Muhammad al-Buzidi. After al-Buzidi's death in 1909, Sheikh Al-Alawi returned to Mostaganem, where he first spread the Darqawiyya, and then (in 1914) established his own order, called the Alawiyya in honor of Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet, who appeared to him in a vision and gave him that name for his new order. The Alawiyya spread throughout Algeria, as well as in other parts of North Africa, as a result of Sheikh al-Alawi's travels, preaching and writing, and through the activities of his muqaddams (representatives). By the time of Sheikh al-Alawi's death in 1934, he had become one of the best known and most celebrated shaykhs of the century and was visited by many. The Alawiyya was one of the first Sufi orders to establish a presence in Europe, notably among Algerians in France and Yemenis in Wales. Sheikh Al-Alawi himself traveled to France in 1926, and led the first communal prayer to inaugurate the newly built Paris Mosque in the presence of the French president. Sheikh Al-Alawi understood French well, though he was reluctant to speak it. The Alawiyya branch also spread as far as Damascus, Syria where an authorization was given to Muhammad al-Hashimi who spread the Alawi branch all throughout the lands of the Levant. During the year of 1930, Sheikh Al-Alawi met with Sheikh Sidi Abu Madyan of the Qadiri Boutchichi Tariqah in Mostaganem. They currently have the shortest chain back to Sheikh Al-Alawi. The current Sheikh of the Boutchichi's is Sheikh Sidi Hamza al Qadiri al Boutchichi. 
 

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Full near I came unto where dwelleth
Layla, when I heard her call.
That voice, would I might ever hear it!
She favored me, and drew me to her,
Took me in, into her precinct,
With discourse intimate addressed me.
She sat me by her, then came closer,
Raised the cloak that hid her from me,
Made me marvel to distraction,
Bewildered me with all her beauty.
She took me and amazed me,
And hid me in her inmost self,
Until I thought that she was I,
And my life she took as ransom.
She changed me and transfigured me,
And marked me with her special sign,
Pressed me to her, put me from her,
Named me as she is named.
Having slain and crumbled me,
She steeped the fragments in her blood.
Then, after my death, she raised me:
My star shines in her firmament.
Where is my life, and where my body,
Where my willful soul? From her
The truth of these shone out to me
Secrets that had been hidden from me.
Mine eyes have never seen but her:
To naught else can they testify.
All meanings in her are comprised.
Glory be to her Creator!
Thou that beauty wouldst describe,
Here is something of her brightness
Take it from me. It is my art.
Think it not idle vanity.
My Heart lied not when it divulged
The secret of my meeting her.
If nearness unto her effaceth,
I still subsist in her substance.

(Shaykh Ahmad Al Alawi)

 

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Recommended Reading:

'A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century: Shaikh Ahmad al-Alawi'
By Martin Lings (Author)

Purchase Book:

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk

Description:

Almost a prerequisite for any serious study of Sufism in European languages': this was the verdict of Seyyed Hossein Nasr in his review of the first edition of the book. According to the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, it is 'one of the most thorough and intimately engaging books on Sufism to be produced by a Western scholar' Certainly there is nothing second-hand about it. The author lets Sufis speak for themselves and, in a series of unusual and absorbing texts mainly translated from Arabic, he gives a vivid picture of life in a North African Sufi order. Against this background stands the unforgettable figure of the Algerian Shaikh who was head of the order from 1909 until his death in 1934. The last few chapters are mainly devoted to his writings, which include some penetrating aphorisms, and which end with a small anthology of his remarkable mystic poems.

"A masterly study of a man whose sanctity recalled the golden age of medieval mystics."
(A. J. Arberry)

"What Martin Lings adds...may serve as a key to a deeper understanding of Islam as a whole."
(Titus Burckhardt)
  
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