- Title: MOROCCO: Sufi worshippers gather in Morocco for annual congregation
- Date: 5th April 2007
- Summary: VARIOUS OF WORSHIPERS SITTING IN THE QADIRIYYAH ORDER MOSQUE GROUP OF CHANTERS SITTING IN ROW ON GROUND AND MAN CHANTING "ALLAH" -- OR "GOD" -- REPEATEDLY INTO MICROPHONE ANOTHER MAN CHANTING INTO MICROPHONE (SOUNDBITE) (English) AHMED MOUNIB, AMERICAN-ARAB CONVERT TO SUFI QADIRIYYAH ORDER, SAYING: "You don't know what love is till you taste it. I did not know what I was missing and how beautiful is the religion of Islam until I entered this tariqa (order). I saw and I'm still seeing everyday, and I fall in love with this beautiful religion."
- Embargoed: 20th April 2007 13:00
- Location: Morocco
- Country: Morocco
- Topics: Religion
- Reuters ID: LVA21ZO52GL4GLJMZYZXDPIOUFG3
- Story Text: It is the day many followers of the Sufi Qadiriyyah order have eagerly awaited all year.
The yearly congregation of followers of one of Morocco's main Sufi "tariqas," or orders, is a spectacular and mesmerising affair. It brings together old and young, men and women, nationals and foreigners. They gather for a day of prayer, incantations, chanting and entering into trances through rhythmic movements.
Every year at around the time of the birthday of the prophet Mohammed, followers of various Sufi orders gather in Morocco, one of the Muslim countries most associated with the mystic tradition.
Followers of the Qadiriyyah order converge on the north-eastern town of Berkan, home of their spiritual leader Sheikh Hamza.
Prayers and chanting take place at Sheikh Hamza's home as well as two mosques nearby.
Followers say Sufism, dedicated to divine love, offers great spiritual healing.
"This is a way to worship, to become serene, to cleanse the spirit and calm it," said Sufi follower and academic Samir al-Haloui.
Sufism is thought to have emerged from the Middle East and North Africa in the eighth century, and to have helped in the spread of Islam particularly in Africa. Adherents are now found around the world, and many attempt to cultivate the special friendship with God Sufism believes humans enjoy.
"You don't know what love is till you taste it. I did not know what I was missing and how beautiful is the religion of Islam until I entered this tariqa," said Ahmed Mounib, an Arab-American recently converted to the Qadiriyyah order.
The day's events culminate with an evening of chanting verses from the Quran and religious incantations. Followers move their bodies to the rhythms of the chants, and many say they enter trances in which their spirits are elevated to a higher realm of existence.
In a corner of the Qadiriyyah order mosque, still under construction in Berkan, the fragile, 84-year-old Sheikh Hamza sits, propped by cushions and covered in blankets. Sufis believe Sheikh Hamza is descended from the prophet Mohammed, and the title is inherited from father to son.
Anthropologist and Sufi follower Faouzi Skalli believes Sufism, with its emphasis on spirituality and closeness to God, can do much in offering a peaceful version of Islam and countering the image of a violent religion generated by militant Islam in recent years.
"Islam is a civilisation, a culture, and a set of cultural and educational values as well. Unfortunately, this religion is portrayed in the media in a negative way. It's presented as an extremist ideology, always clashing with others. We believe that Sufism can be a means of communication, not only within the Muslim community," Skalli said.
Other Morocco-based Sufi orders include the Ouazaniyyah, Eisawiyyah, Tijaniyyah and Hassouniyyah orders, all named after Moroccan "great masters" of Sufism.
Sufism throughout the Muslim world has produced a great body of poetry and chanting closely resembling music, as well as various schools of philosophical thought.
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