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
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
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
“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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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.
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
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
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.