Thursday, September 16, 2010
Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi أحمد بن مصطفى العلاوي
Sheikh Ahmad ibn Mustafa al-Alawi (1869–14 July 1934),
(Arabic: أحمد بن مصطفى العلاوي), was the founder of a popular modern Sufi order, the Darqawiyya Alawiyya, a branch of the Shadhiliyya
Sheikh 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 orderIn 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.
Sheikh Al-Alawi was a Sufi shaykh in the classic Darqawi Shadhili tradition, though his order differed somewhat from the norm in its use of the systmatic practice of khalwa and in laying especial emphasis on the invocation of the Supreme Name [of God].
In addition to being a classic Sufi shaykh, Sheikh al-Alawi addressed the problems of modern Algerians using modern methods. As well as writing poetry and books on established Sufi topics, he founded and directed two weekly newspapers, the short-lived Lisan al-Din (Language of Faith) in 1912, and the longer-lived Al-balagh al-jazairi (Algerian Messenger) in 1926.
In his preaching and his writings, Sheikh al-Alawi attempted to reconcile Islam and modernity. On the one hand, he criticized Westernization, both at a symbolic level (by discouraging the adoption of Western costumes that lead to ego attachment) and at a practical level (by attacking the growing consumption of alcohol among Algerian Muslims). On the other hand, he encouraged his followers to send their children to school to learn French, and even favored the translation of the Koran into French and Berber for the sake of making it more accessible, a position that was at that time most controversial.
Although Sheikh al-Alawi showed unusual respect for Christians, and was in some ways an early practitioner of inter-religious dialogue, the centerpiece of his message to Christians was that if only they would abandon the doctrines of the trinity and of incarnation "nothing would then separate us."
The great size of his following may be explained by the combination of classic Sufism with engagement in contemporary issues, combined with his own personal charisma, to which many sources, both Algerian and French, speak. Sheikh Al-Alawi's French physician, Marcel Carret, wrote of his first meeting with Sheikh al-Alawi "What immediately struck me was his resemblance to the face which is generally used to represent Christ."